Use Your Words - Noah Webster's Dictionary
Noah Webster wrote the first (and most famous) American Dictionary.
It may surprise you that Webster may be included among the Founding Fathers of the United States. Although his contribution was primarily in education, Noah gained popularity writing newspaper articles that were pro ratification of the Constitution.
Additionally, he worked for Alexander Hamilton writing pieces in support of the Federalist Party.
Despite getting his early education in a broken down, one-room schoolhouse, Noah Webster received acceptance to Yale University.
The Connecticut native spent time learning from famed educator Ezra Styles. After graduation, Noah would study law for a time under future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Oliver Ellsworth.
His education also overlapped with the American Revolution but, though he served in the State militia, Webster never saw any action in the war.
The Blue-Backed Speller
Although he passed the bar, Webster decided against a legal career.
Instead, he opened up a small school in the western part of the state. After a failed relationship, he closed the school and moved to Goshen, NY. Here he found success with a private school, supplementing his income with newspaper articles.
After a few years, Webster began attempting to improve American education in general. To this end, he published the Blue-Backed Speller.
Officially titled A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, this three volume work assisted children in learning spelling, grammar and reading.
The Speller was wildly successful and was the basis for early education in the United States for the better part of a hundred years.
As Webster’s star grew, he began to support ratification of the Constitution.
His writings in favor of the new government brought him to the attention of Alexander Hamilton, who paid for him to relocate to New York City. Webster began writing pro-administration articles for the Pro-Administration papers.
Additionally, Noah started the American Minerva (AKA the Commercial Advertiser). This became the first daily paper in NYC.
By 1800, Webster had returned to Connecticut. He would spend a few years in his State's House of Representatives, but mostly focused on publishing political articles and educational textbooks.
During this time, Webster published his first dictionary. Shortly thereafter, he began writing the comprehensive dictionary he has since become famous for. He allegedly learned over twenty languages in order to trace the history of the words.
In his dictionary, like in his textbooks and newspaper articles, Webster promoted Americanized spellings of words. These were based on how citizens of the United States pronounced the English language, as opposed to people in Great Britain.
The expanded dictionary took almost twenty years to complete and was a monumental achievement, containing over 70,000 words. Although the first edition did not have massive sales, Webster's Dictionary, like Noah Webster himself, has left an indelible mark on American history.
I'm not the only one who thinks Webster was a Founding Father. Check out the Joshua Kendall biography 'The Forgotten Founding Father' which delves deeper into Webster's life and his long-lasting effects on American culture. Grab it at your library or through our affiliate link below.
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