Noah Webster was born on October 16, 1758, in the West Division of Hartford (CT).
Noah's was an average colonial family. His father farmed and worked as a weaver. His mother worked at home. Noah
and his two brothers, Charles and Abraham, helped their father with the farm work. Noah's sisters, Mercy and Jerusha,
worked with their mother to keep house and to make food and clothing for the family.
Few people went to college, but Noah loved to learn so his parents let him go to Yale, Connecticut's only college.
He left for New Haven in 1774, when he was 16. Noah's years at Yale coincided with the Revolutionary War. Because
New Haven had food shortages during this time, many of Noah's classes were held in Glastonbury. Noah graduated
in 1778. He wanted to study law, but his parents could not afford to give him more money for school. So, in order
to earn a living, Noah taught school in Glastonbury, Hartford and West Hartford. Later he studied law. [Additional
fact: in 1784 Connecticut started the first law school in America, which graduated Noah Webster]
Noah did not like American schools. Sometimes 70 children of all ages were crammed into one-room
schoolhouses with no desks, poor books, and untrained teachers. Their books came from England. Noah thought that
Americans should learn from American books, so in 1783, Noah wrote his own textbook: A Grammatical Institute of
the English Language. [Additional fact: In 1783 Noah also produced what is considered to be the first dictionary
created in the US] Most people called it the "Blue-backed Speller" because of its blue cover.
For 100 years, Noah's book taught children how to read, spell, and pronounce words. It was the most popular
American book of its time. Ben Franklin used Noah's book to teach his granddaughter to read.
In 1789, Noah married Rebecca Greenleaf. They had eight children. Noah carried raisins and candies in his
pockets for the children to enjoy. The Websters lived in New Haven, then moved to Amherst, MA. There, Noah helped
to start Amherst College. Later the family moved back to New Haven.
[Additional fact: Dec. 9, 1793 Noah Webster founded New York's first daily newspaper.]
When Noah was 43, he started writing the first American dictionary. He did this because Americans in different
parts of the country spelled, pronounced and used words differently. He thought that all Americans should speak
the same way. He also thought that Americans should not speak and spell just like the English.
Noah used American spellings like "color" instead of the English "colour" and "music"
instead " of "musick". He
also added American words that weren't in English dictionaries like "skunk" and "squash". It
took him over 27
years to write his book. When finished in 1828, at the age of 70, Noah's dictionary had 70,000 words in it.
Noah did many things in his life. He worked for copyright laws, wrote textbooks, Americanized the English
language, and edited magazines. When Noah Webster died in 1843 he was considered an American hero.
[Biography from the The Noah Webster House, Museum of West Hartford History]
Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)
June 23 1824
New York, June 14
Noah Webster, Esq., and his son will embark tomorrow in the Havre Packet, for Europe. Mr. W. goes to Europe with
a view of publishing his Dictionary, upon which he has been engaged for twenty years, in England. His visit to
France, we believe, is to procure the means of completing one division of his work. We believe Mr. W’s plan is
new, and we understand that it will embrace an analysis of twenty-six languages.
[Submitted by Nancy Piper]