Noah Webster


Portrait of Noah WebsterNoah Webster was a lexicographer, grammarian, lawyer, public school teacher and journalist. He was born in 1758 in West Hartford, Connecticut. He grew up during the American Revolution and was a strong advocate of the Constitutional Convention and of America’s independence from Britain. Related to his interests in separating from England were his efforts to create and support an American version of British English. In 1783 he wrote Grammatical Institute of the English Language, a spelling guide as well as a grammar and a reader. The book became known “Blue-Backed Speller” for its blue cover and was used as a classroom textbook for many years. It thereby served as a standard in education, providing Webster with a degree of financial security.

In 1806 Webster wrote the first American English dictionary: A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. In 1828 he published what was to become a classic dictionary with 70,000 entries, the American Dictionary of the English Language.

Webster’s also published a book on elocution that went through a number of revisions (1790, 1792, 1794, 1797, 1800). It was titled: An American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking: This book included “rules in elocution and directions for expressing the principal passions of the mind.” It was also provided information about the geography, history, and politics of the United States: It

Writings by Noah Webster, arranged chronologically

Sketches of American Policy, one of the earliest pamphlets advocating a strong Federal government (1785);

An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, defending the organization of government proposed in the Constitution (1787);

Dissertations on the English Language, a study of comparative philology and reforms in spelling which predicted the development of an American language far different from English (1789);

Rudiments of English Grammar (1790);

A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings, encompassing his new mode of spelling (1790);

Effects of Slavery, on Morals and Industry (1793);

A Brief History of Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases (two volumes, 1799);

Elements of Useful Knowledge, presenting a survey of United States sciences and history (four volumes, 1802-1812);

A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, his first dictionary (1806);

A Dictionary of the English Language (1807);

Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education, concerning government, philology, and religion (1823);

An American Dictionary of the English Language, America's first work of "monumental scholarship," (two volumes, 1828);

History of the United States (1832);

The Holy Bible ... with Amendments to the Language (1843).

Writings about Noah Webster

Babbidge, Homer D., Jr., (ed). (1967). Noah Webster: On being American, selected writings, 1783-1828. New York

Moneghan, E. Jennifer. (1983) A common heritage: Noah Webster's Blue-Back Speller. Hamden, CT.

Rollins, Richard M. (1980). The long journey of Noah Webster Philadelphia, PA.

Shoemaker, Ervin C. (1936) Noah Webster: Pioneer of learning. New York.

Snyder, Kim Alan (1989) Defining Noah Webster: Mind and morals in the early republic. Ph. D. dissertation, American University.

Warfel, Harry R. (1936/1966) Noah Webster: Schoolmaster to America. New York. The Macmillan Co.

Warfel, Harry R., (ed.) (1953) Letters of Noah Webster. New York: Library Publishers.