Noah Webster, 1758 - 1843

portrait of Noah Webster
From the frontispiece of An American Dictionary of the English Language, 1859 edition

Born: 16 October 1758, West Division, Hartford, Connecticut
Died: 28 May 1843, New Haven, Connecticut

Webster studied at Yale during the Revolution, graduating in 1778, and served in the Connecticut militia. He taught school to pay for his education, earned his law degree in 1781. When he actually practiced law in 1789 he chose to return to the classroom. In December of 1793 he founded America's first daily newspaper, American Minerva, and edited it for four years. He wrote textbooks, Federalist party political essays, and newspaper articles in quantity, one modern bibliography of his work fills 655 pages. Starting in 1783 he wrote a set of three textbooks for elementary education, the first volume was generally called the "Blue-Backed Speller" which sold some 70 million copies and was used in schools for a century. Other publishers printed copies of his work without compensation which led Webster to campaign for a national copyright law which was passed in 1790. In 1806 he published his first dictionary, then immediately started the task of creating An American Dictionary of the English Language. It took over twenty years, the first edition was published in 1828. It included 70,000 words, then the largest ever, and had over 10,000 purely American words that had never been in any dictionary before, like skunk and squash. In that volume he began his campaign for American spelling, changing centre to center, colour to color, and waggon to wagon.

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