Noah Webster

Noah Webster Jr. (October 16, 1758 – May 28, 1843) was an American lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English-language spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author. He has been called the "Father of American Scholarship and Education". His blue-backed speller books taught five generations of American children how to spell and read. Webster's name has become synonymous with "dictionary" in the United States, especially the modern Merriam-Webster dictionary that was first published in 1828 as An American Dictionary of the English Language.

Born in West Hartford, Connecticut, Webster graduated from Yale College in 1778. He passed the bar examination after studying law under Oliver Ellsworth and others, but was unable to find work as a lawyer. He found some financial success by opening a private school and writing a series of educational books, including the "Blue-Backed Speller." A strong supporter of the American Revolution and the ratification of the United States Constitution, Webster hoped his educational works would provide an intellectual foundation for American nationalism; however, by 1820 he became a critic of the society he helped create.

In 1793, Alexander Hamilton recruited Webster to move to New York City and become an editor for a Federalist Party newspaper. He became a prolific author, publishing newspaper articles, political essays, and textbooks. He returned to Connecticut in 1798 and served in the Connecticut House of Representatives. Webster founded the Connecticut Society for the Abolition of Slavery in 1791 but later became somewhat disillusioned with the abolitionist movement.

In 1806, Webster published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. The following year, he started working on an expanded and comprehensive dictionary, finally publishing it in 1828. He was very influential in popularizing certain spellings in the United States. He was also influential in establishing the Copyright Act of 1831, the first major statutory revision of U.S. copyright law. While working on a second volume of his dictionary, Webster died in 1843, and the rights to the dictionary were acquired by George and Charles Merriam.

Noah Webster
Noah Webster pre-1843 IMG 4412 Cropped
Noah Webster in an 1833 portrait by James Herring
Member of the Connecticut House of Representatives
In office
1800; 1802 – 1807
Personal details
Noah Webster Jr.

October 16, 1758
Western Reserve of Hartford,[1][2] Connecticut Colony, British America
DiedMay 28, 1843 (aged 84)
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
Resting placeGrove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut
Political partyFederalist
Rebecca Greenleaf Webster (m. 1789)
Alma materYale University
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Branch/service Connecticut Militia
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War
Portrait of Noah Webster
Noah Webster painted by Samuel F. B. Morse
Noah Webster House
Webster's New Haven home, where he wrote An American Dictionary of the English Language. Now relocated to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.


Webster was born in the Western Division of Hartford (which became West Hartford, Connecticut) to an established family. His father Noah Sr. (1722–1813) was a descendant of Connecticut Governor John Webster; his mother Mercy (Steele) Webster (1727–1794) was a descendant of Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony.[3] His father was primarily a farmer, though he was also deacon of the local Congregational church, captain of the town's militia, and a founder of a local book society (a precursor to the public library).[4] After American independence, he was appointed a justice of the peace.[5]

Webster's father never attended college, but he was intellectually curious and prized education. Webster's mother spent long hours teaching her children spelling, mathematics, and music.[6] At age six, Webster began attending a dilapidated one-room primary school built by West Hartford's Ecclesiastical Society. Years later, he described the teachers as the "dregs of humanity" and complained that the instruction was mainly in religion.[7] Webster's experiences there motivated him to improve the educational experience of future generations.[8]

At age fourteen, his church pastor began tutoring him in Latin and Greek to prepare him for entering Yale College.[9] Webster enrolled at Yale just before his 16th birthday, studying during his senior year with Ezra Stiles, Yale's president. His four years at Yale overlapped the American Revolutionary War and, because of food shortages and threatened British invasions, many of his classes had to be held in other towns. Webster served in the Connecticut Militia. His father had mortgaged the farm to send Webster to Yale, but he was now on his own and had nothing more to do with his family.[10]

Webster lacked career plans after graduating from Yale in 1778, later writing that a liberal arts education "disqualifies a man for business".[11] He taught school briefly in Glastonbury, but the working conditions were harsh and the pay low. He quit to study law.[12] While studying law under future U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, Webster also taught full-time in Hartford—which was grueling, and ultimately impossible to continue.[13] He quit his legal studies for a year and lapsed into a depression; he then found another practicing attorney to tutor him, and completed his studies and passed the bar examination in 1781.[14] As the Revolutionary War was still going on, he could not find work as a lawyer. He received a master's degree from Yale by giving an oral dissertation to the Yale graduating class. Later that year, he opened a small private school in western Connecticut that was a success. Nevertheless, he soon closed it and left town, probably because of a failed romance.[15] Turning to literary work as a way to overcome his losses and channel his ambitions,[16] he began writing a series of well-received articles for a prominent New England newspaper justifying and praising the American Revolution and arguing that the separation from Britain was permanent.[17] He then founded a private school catering to wealthy parents in Goshen, New York and, by 1785, he had written his speller, a grammar book and a reader for elementary schools.[18] Proceeds from continuing sales of the popular blue-backed speller enabled Webster to spend many years working on his famous dictionary.[19]

Webster was by nature a revolutionary, seeking American independence from the cultural thralldom to Britain. To replace it, he sought to create a utopian America, cleansed of luxury and ostentation and the champion of freedom.[20] By 1781, Webster had an expansive view of the new nation. American nationalism was superior to Europe because American values were superior, he claimed.[21]

America sees the absurdities—she sees the kingdoms of Europe, disturbed by wrangling sectaries, or their commerce, population and improvements of every kind cramped and retarded, because the human mind like the body is fettered 'and bound fast by the chords of policy and superstition': She laughs at their folly and shuns their errors: She founds her empire upon the idea of universal toleration: She admits all religions into her bosom; She secures the sacred rights of every individual; and (astonishing absurdity to Europeans!) she sees a thousand discordant opinions live in the strictest harmony ... it will finally raise her to a pitch of greatness and lustre, before which the glory of ancient Greece and Rome shall dwindle to a point, and the splendor of modern Empires fade into obscurity.

Webster dedicated his Speller and Dictionary to providing an intellectual foundation for American nationalism.[22] From 1787 to 1789, Webster was an outspoken supporter of the new Constitution. In October 1787, he wrote a pamphlet entitled "An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution Proposed by the Late Convention Held at Philadelphia," published under the pen name "A Citizen of America."[23] The pamphlet was influential, particularly outside New York State.

In terms of political theory, he de-emphasized virtue (a core value of republicanism) and emphasized widespread ownership of property (a key element of Federalism). He was one of the few Americans who paid much attention to French theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It was not Rousseau's politics but his ideas on pedagogy in Emile (1762) that influenced Webster in adjusting his Speller to the stages of a child's development.[24]

Federalist editor

Noah Webster's prospectus for his English language dictionary
To the Friends of Literature in the United States, Webster's prospectus for his first dictionary of the English language, 1807–1808

Webster married well and had joined the elite in Hartford but did not have much money. In 1793, Alexander Hamilton lent him $1,500 to move to New York City to edit the leading Federalist Party newspaper. In December, he founded New York's first daily newspaper American Minerva (later known as the Commercial Advertiser), which he edited for four years, writing the equivalent of 20 volumes of articles and editorials. He also published the semi-weekly publication The Herald, A Gazette for the country (later known as The New York Spectator).

As a Federalist spokesman, he defended the administrations of George Washington and John Adams, especially their policy of neutrality between Britain and France, and he especially criticized the excesses of the French Revolution and its Reign of Terror. When French ambassador Citizen Genêt set up a network of pro-Jacobin "Democratic-Republican Societies" that entered American politics and attacked President Washington, he condemned them. He later defended Jay's Treaty between the United States and Britain. As a result, he was repeatedly denounced by the Jeffersonian Republicans as "a pusillanimous, half-begotten, self-dubbed patriot," "an incurable lunatic," and "a deceitful newsmonger ... Pedagogue and Quack." [25]

Webster was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1799.[26]

For decades, he was one of the most prolific authors in the new nation, publishing textbooks, political essays, a report on infectious diseases, and newspaper articles for his Federalist party. He wrote so much that a modern bibliography of his published works required 655 pages. He moved back to New Haven in 1798; he was elected as a Federalist to the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1800 and 1802–1807.


The Copyright Act of 1831 was the first major statutory revision of U.S. copyright law, a result of intensive lobbying by Noah Webster and his agents in Congress.[27] Webster also played a critical role lobbying individual states throughout the country during the 1780s to pass the first American copyright laws, which were expected to have distinct nationalistic implications for the infant nation.[28]

Blue-backed speller

Noah Webster statue by Korczak Ziółkowski
A 1932 statue of Webster by Korczak Ziółkowski stands in front of the public library of West Hartford, Connecticut.

As a teacher, he had come to dislike American elementary schools. They could be overcrowded, with up to seventy children of all ages crammed into one-room schoolhouses. They had poor, underpaid staff, no desks, and unsatisfactory textbooks that came from England. Webster thought that Americans should learn from American books, so he began writing the three volume compendium A Grammatical Institute of the English Language. The work consisted of a speller (published in 1783), a grammar (published in 1784), and a reader (published in 1785). His goal was to provide a uniquely American approach to training children. His most important improvement, he claimed, was to rescue "our native tongue" from "the clamour[29] of pedantry" that surrounded English grammar and pronunciation. He complained that the English language had been corrupted by the British aristocracy, which set its own standard for proper spelling and pronunciation.[30] Webster rejected the notion that the study of Greek and Latin must precede the study of English grammar. The appropriate standard for the American language, argued Webster, was "the same republican principles as American civil and ecclesiastical constitutions." This meant that the people-at-large must control the language; popular sovereignty in government must be accompanied by popular usage in language.

The Speller was arranged so that it could be easily taught to students, and it progressed by age. From his own experiences as a teacher, Webster thought that the Speller should be simple and gave an orderly presentation of words and the rules of spelling and pronunciation. He believed that students learned most readily when he broke a complex problem into its component parts and had each pupil master one part before moving to the next. Ellis argues that Webster anticipated some of the insights currently associated with Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Webster said that children pass through distinctive learning phases in which they master increasingly complex or abstract tasks. Therefore, teachers must not try to teach a three-year-old how to read; they could not do it until age five. He organized his speller accordingly, beginning with the alphabet and moving systematically through the different sounds of vowels and consonants, then syllables, then simple words, then more complex words, then sentences.[31]

The speller was originally titled The First Part of the Grammatical Institute of the English Language. Over the course of 385 editions in his lifetime, the title was changed in 1786 to The American Spelling Book, and again in 1829 to The Elementary Spelling Book. Most people called it the "Blue-Backed Speller" because of its blue cover and, for the next one hundred years, Webster's book taught children how to read, spell, and pronounce words. It was the most popular American book of its time; by 1837, it had sold 15 million copies, and some 60 million by 1890—reaching the majority of young students in the nation's first century. Its royalty of a half-cent per copy was enough to sustain Webster in his other endeavors. It also helped create the popular contests known as spelling bees.

Handwritten drafts of dictionary entries Noah Webster
Handwritten drafts of dictionary entries by Webster

As time went on, Webster changed the spellings in the book to more phonetic ones. Most of them already existed as alternative spellings.[32] He chose spellings such as defense, color, and traveler, and changed the re to er in words such as center. He also changed tongue to the older spelling tung, but this did not catch on.[33]

Part three of his Grammatical Institute (1785) was a reader designed to uplift the mind and "diffuse the principles of virtue and patriotism."[34]

"In the choice of pieces," he explained, "I have not been inattentive to the political interests of America. Several of those masterly addresses of Congress, written at the commencement of the late Revolution, contain such noble, just, and independent sentiments of liberty and patriotism, that I cannot help wishing to transfuse them into the breasts of the rising generation."

Students received the usual quota of Plutarch, Shakespeare, Swift, and Addison, as well as such Americans as Joel Barlow's Vision of Columbus, Timothy Dwight's Conquest of Canaan, and John Trumbull's poem M'Fingal. He included excerpts from Tom Paine's The Crisis and an essay by Thomas Day calling for the abolition of slavery in accord with the Declaration of Independence.

Webster's Speller was entirely secular by design.[35] It ended with two pages of important dates in American history, beginning with Columbus's discovery of America in 1492 and ending with the battle of Yorktown in 1781. There was no mention of God, the Bible, or sacred events. "Let sacred things be appropriated for sacred purposes," wrote Webster. As Ellis explains, "Webster began to construct a secular catechism to the nation-state. Here was the first appearance of 'civics' in American schoolbooks. In this sense, Webster's speller becoming what was to be the secular successor to The New England Primer with its explicitly biblical injunctions."[36] Later in life, Webster became intensely religious and added religious themes. However, after 1840, Webster's books lost market share to the McGuffey Eclectic Readers of William Holmes McGuffey, which sold over 120 million copies.[37]

Noah Webster The Schoolmaster of the Republic
Noah Webster, The Schoolmaster of the Republic. (1886)

Vincent P. Bynack (1984) examines Webster in relation to his commitment to the idea of a unified American national culture that would stave off the decline of republican virtues and solidarity. Webster acquired his perspective on language from such theorists as Maupertuis, Michaelis, and Herder. There he found the belief that a nation's linguistic forms and the thoughts correlated with them shaped individuals' behavior. Thus, the etymological clarification and reform of American English promised to improve citizens' manners and thereby preserve republican purity and social stability. This presupposition animated Webster's Speller and Grammar.[38]



Noah Webster 1958 issue
Noah Webster honored on US Postage stamp, issue of 1958

In 1806, Webster published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. In 1807 Webster began compiling an expanded and fully comprehensive dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language; it took twenty-six years to complete. To evaluate the etymology of words, Webster learned twenty-eight languages, including Old English (Anglo-Saxon), Gothic, German, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, Welsh, Russian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit. Webster hoped to standardize American speech, since Americans in different parts of the country used different languages. They also spelled, pronounced, and used English words differently.[39]

Webster completed his dictionary during his year abroad in January 1825 in a boarding house in Cambridge, England.[40] His book contained seventy thousand words, of which twelve thousand had never appeared in a published dictionary before. As a spelling reformer, Webster preferred spellings that matched pronunciation better. In A Companion to the American Revolution (2008), John Algeo notes: "It is often assumed that characteristically American spellings were invented by Noah Webster. He was very influential in popularizing certain spellings in America, but he did not originate them. Rather ... he chose already existing options such as center, color and check on such grounds as simplicity, analogy or etymology."[32] He also added American words, like "skunk" and "squash", that did not appear in British dictionaries. At the age of seventy, Webster published his dictionary in 1828, registering the copyright on April 14.[41]

Though it now has an honored place in the history of American English, Webster's first dictionary only sold 2,500 copies. He was forced to mortgage his home to develop a second edition, and his life from then on was plagued with debt.

In 1840, the second edition was published in two volumes. On May 28, 1843, a few days after he had completed revising an appendix to the second edition, and with much of his efforts with the dictionary still unrecognized, Noah Webster died. The rights to his dictionary were acquired by George and Charles Merriam in 1843 from Webster's estate and all contemporary Merriam-Webster dictionaries trace their lineage to that of Webster, although many others have adopted his name, attempting to share in the prestige.

A Dictionary of the English Language Noah Webster title page
Title page of Webster's Dictionary of the English Language, circa 1830–1840


Lepore (2008) demonstrates Webster's paradoxical ideas about language and politics and shows why Webster's endeavors were at first so poorly received. Culturally conservative Federalists denounced the work as radical—too inclusive in its lexicon and even bordering on vulgar. Meanwhile, Webster's old foes the Republicans attacked the man, labeling him mad for such an undertaking.[42]

Scholars have long seen Webster's 1844 dictionary to be an important resource for reading poet Emily Dickinson's life and work; she once commented that the "Lexicon" was her "only companion" for years. One biographer said, "The dictionary was no mere reference book to her; she read it as a priest his breviary—over and over, page by page, with utter absorption."[43]

Nathan Austin has explored the intersection of lexicographical and poetic practices in American literature, and attempts to map out a "lexical poetics" using Webster's definitions as his base. Poets mined his dictionaries, often drawing upon the lexicography in order to express word play. Austin explicates key definitions from both the Compendious (1806) and American (1828) dictionaries, and finds a range of themes such as the politics of "American" versus "British" English and issues of national identity and independent culture. Austin argues that Webster's dictionaries helped redefine Americanism in an era of highly flexible cultural identity. Webster himself saw the dictionaries as a nationalizing device to separate America from Britain, calling his project a "federal language", with competing forces towards regularity on the one hand and innovation on the other. Austin suggests that the contradictions of Webster's lexicography were part of a larger play between liberty and order within American intellectual discourse, with some pulled toward Europe and the past, and others pulled toward America and the new future.[44]

In 1850 Blackie and Son in Glasgow published the first general dictionary of English that relied heavily upon pictorial illustrations integrated with the text. Its The Imperial Dictionary, English, Technological, and Scientific, Adapted to the Present State of Literature, Science, and Art; On the Basis of Webster's English Dictionary used Webster's for most of their text, adding some additional technical words that went with illustrations of machinery.[45]

Religious views

Noah Webster letter to Eliza Webster on abolitionism 1837
Letter from Webster to daughter Eliza, 1837, warning of perils of the abolitionist movement

Webster in early life was something of a freethinker, but in 1808 he became a convert to Calvinistic orthodoxy, and thereafter became a devout Congregationalist who preached the need to Christianize the nation.[46] Webster grew increasingly authoritarian and elitist, fighting against the prevailing grain of Jacksonian Democracy. Webster viewed language as a tool to control unruly thoughts. His American Dictionary emphasized the virtues of social control over human passions and individualism, submission to authority, and fear of God; they were necessary for the maintenance of the American social order. As he grew older, Webster's attitudes changed from those of an optimistic revolutionary in the 1780s to those of a pessimistic critic of man and society by the 1820s.[47]

His 1828 American Dictionary contained the greatest number of Biblical definitions given in any reference volume. Webster said of education,

"Education is useless without the Bible. The Bible was America's basic text book in all fields. God's Word, contained in the Bible, has furnished all necessary rules to direct our conduct."[48][49]

Webster released his own edition of the Bible in 1833, called the Common Version. He used the King James Version (KJV) as a base and consulted the Hebrew and Greek along with various other versions and commentaries. Webster molded the KJV to correct grammar, replaced words that were no longer used, and did away with words and phrases that could be seen as offensive.

In 1834, he published Value of the Bible and Excellence of the Christian Religion, an apologetic book in defense of the Bible and Christianity itself.

Opposition to slavery

Webster helped found the Connecticut Society for the Abolition of Slavery in 1791,[50] but by the 1830s rejected the new tone among abolitionists that emphasized that Americans who tolerated slavery were themselves sinners. In 1837, Webster warned his daughter Eliza about her fervent support of the abolitionist cause. Webster wrote, "slavery is a great sin and a general calamity—but it is not our sin, though it may prove to be a terrible calamity to us in the north. But we cannot legally interfere with the South on this subject."[51] He added, "To come north to preach and thus disturb our peace, when we can legally do nothing to effect this object, is, in my view, highly criminal and the preachers of abolitionism deserve the penitentiary."[51]


Portrait of Rebecca Greenleaf Webster by Jared Bradley Flagg
Rebecca Greenleaf Webster, wife of Noah Webster

Noah Webster married Rebecca Greenleaf (1766–1847) on October 26, 1789, New Haven, Connecticut. They had eight children:

  • Emily Schotten (1790–1861), who married William W. Ellsworth, named by Webster as an executor of his will.[52] Emily, their daughter, married Rev. Abner Jackson, who became president of both Hartford's Trinity College and Hobart College in New York State.[53]
  • Frances Julianna (1793–1869), married Chauncey Allen Goodrich
  • Harriet (1797–1844), who married William Chauncey Fowler
  • Mary (1799–1819)
  • William Greenleaf (1801–1869)
  • Eliza Steele (1803–1888) m. Rev. Henry Jones (1801-1878)
  • Henry Bradford (1806–1807)
  • Louisa Greenleaf (1808-1874)

He moved to Amherst, Massachusetts in 1812, where he helped to found Amherst College. In 1822 the family moved back to New Haven, where Webster was awarded an honorary degree from Yale the following year. He is buried in New Haven's Grove Street Cemetery.[54]

Selected works

  • Dissertation on the English Language (1789)
  • Collection of Essays and Fugitive Writings on Moral, Historical, Political, and Literary Subjects (1790)
  • The American Spelling Book (1783)
  • The Elementary Spelling Book (1829)
  • Value of The Bible and Excellence of the Christian Religion (1834)


  • Rudiments of English Grammar (1899)

See also


  1. ^ Dobbs, Christopher. "Noah Webster and the Dream of a Common Language". Noah Webster and the Dream of a Common Language. Connecticut Humanities. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  2. ^ "Connecticut Births and Christenings, 1649-1906". FamilySearch. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  3. ^ Noah had two brothers, Abraham (1751–1831) and Charles (b. 1762), and two sisters, Mercy (1749–1820) and Jerusha (1756–1831).
  4. ^ Kendall, Joshua, The Forgotten Founding Father, p. 22.
  5. ^ Kendall, p. 22.
  6. ^ Kendall, pp. 21–23.
  7. ^ Kendall, pp. 22–24.
  8. ^ Kendall, p. 24.
  9. ^ Kendall, pp. 29–30.
  10. ^ Richard Rollins, The Long Journey of Noah Webster (1980) p. 19.
  11. ^ Kendall, p. 54.
  12. ^ Kendall, p. 56.
  13. ^ Kendall, p. 57.
  14. ^ Kendall, pp. 58–59.
  15. ^ Kendall, p. 59-64
  16. ^ Kendall, p. 65.
  17. ^ Kendall, pp. 65–66.
  18. ^ Kendall, pp. 69–71.
  19. ^ Kendall, pp. 71–74.
  20. ^ Rollins (1980) p. 24
  21. ^ Ellis 170
  22. ^ "Noah Webster Biography | Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society | West Hartford, Connecticut (CT)". Archived from the original on November 5, 2016. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  23. ^ Kendall, Joshua, The Forgotten Founding Father, pp. 147–49
  24. ^ Rollins, (1980) ch 2
  25. ^ Ellis 199.
  26. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter W" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  27. ^ "Copyright Act (1831), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450–1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer". Archived from the original on October 1, 2008. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  28. ^ See Brian Pelanda, "Declarations of Cultural Independence: The Nationalistic Imperative Behind the Passage of Early American Copyright Laws, 1783–1787" 58 Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. 431, 437–42 (2011) online.
  29. ^ Citing this article, "at first he kept the u in words like colour or favour" so this quotation should have a 'U' in clamour
  30. ^ See Brian Pelanda, Declarations of Cultural Independence: The Nationalistic Imperative Behind the Passage of Early American Copyright Laws, 1783–1787 58 Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. 431, 431–454 (2011).
  31. ^ Ellis 174.
  32. ^ a b Algeo, John. "The Effects of the Revolution on Language," in A Companion to the American Revolution. John Wiley & Sons, 2008. p. 599
  33. ^ Scudder 1881, pp. 245–52.
  34. ^ Warfel, Harry Redcay (1966). Noah Webster, schoolmaster to America. New York: Octagon. p. 86.
  35. ^ Ellis, After the Revolution: Profiles of Early American Culture (1979) p. 175
  36. ^ Ellis 175.
  37. ^ Westerhoff, John H. III (1978). McGuffey and His Readers: Piety, Morality, and Education in Nineteenth-Century America. Nashville: Abingdon. ISBN 0-687-23850-1.
  38. ^ Bynack, Vincent P. (1984). "Noah Webster and the Idea of a National Culture: the Pathologies of Epistemology". Journal of the History of Ideas. 45 (1): 99–114. doi:10.2307/2709333.
  39. ^ Pearson, Ellen Holmes. "The Standardization of American English,", accessed March 21, 2012
  40. ^ Lepore, Jill (2012). The Story of America: Essays on Origins. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-691-15399-5.
  41. ^ Wright, Russell O. (2006). Chronology of education in the United States. McFarland. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-7864-2502-0. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  42. ^ Lepore, Jill (2008). "Introduction". In Schulman, Arthur (ed.). Websterisms: A Collection of Words and Definitions Set Forth by the Founding Father of American English. Free Press.
  43. ^ Deppman, Jed (2002). "'I Could Not Have Defined the Change': Rereading Dickinson's Definition Poetry". Emily Dickinson Journal. 11 (1): 49–80. doi:10.1353/edj.2002.0005. Martha Dickinson Bianchi, The life and letters of Emily Dickinson (1924) p. 80 for quote
  44. ^ Nathan W. Austin, "Lost in the Maze of Words: Reading and Re-reading Noah Webster's Dictionaries", Dissertation Abstracts International, 2005, Vol. 65 Issue 12, p. 4561
  45. ^ Hancher, Michael (1998). "Gazing at the Imperial Dictionary". Book History. 1: 156–181. doi:10.1353/bh.1998.0006.
  46. ^ Snyder (1990).
  47. ^ Rollins (1980).
  48. ^ Mary Babson Fuhrer (2014). A Crisis of Community: The Trials and Transformation of a New England Town, 1815–1848. University of North Carolina Press. p. 294.
  49. ^ Webster, Noah. "Notable Quotes". Webster's 1828 Dictionary - Online Edition. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  50. ^ Noah Webster and the First American Dictionary, Luisanna Fodde Melis, Rosen Publishing Group, New York, 2005. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  51. ^ a b Florea, Silvia. Americana Vol. VI, No 2, Fall 2010 "Lessons from the Heart and Hearth of Colonial Philadelphia: Reflections on Education, As Reflected in Colonial Era Correspondence to Wives." [1]
  52. ^ Noah Webster and the American Dictionary, David Micklethwait, McFarland, 2005. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  53. ^ Genealogy of the Greenleaf family. F. Wood. 1896. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  54. ^ New Haven Register


  • "Noah Webster" in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). vol 18 section 25:33 online edition
  • Bynack, Vincent P. "Noah Webster and the Idea of a National Culture: the Pathologies of Epistemology." Journal of the History of Ideas 1984 45(1): 99–114. ISSN 0022-5037 in Jstor
  • Ellis, Joseph J. After the Revolution: Profiles of Early American Culture 1979. chapter 6, interpretive essay online edition
  • Gallardo, Andres. "The Standardization of American English." PhD dissertation State U. of New York, Buffalo 1980. 367 pp. DAI 1981 41(8): 3557-A. 8104193, focused on Webster's dictionary
  • Kendall, Joshua. The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture (2011)
  • Leavitt, Robert Keith. Noah's Ark New England Yankees and the Endless Quest: a Short History of the Original Webster Dictionaries, With Particular Reference to Their First Hundred Years (1947). 106 pp
  • Lepore, Jill. "Noah's Mark: Webster and the original dictionary wars." The New Yorker, (November 6, 2006). 78–87. online edition
  • Malone, Kemp. "Webster, Noah," Dictionary of American Biography, Volume 10 (1936)
  • Micklethwait, David. Noah Webster and the American Dictionary (2005)
  • Morgan, John S. Noah Webster (1975), popular biography
  • Moss, Richard J. Noah Webster. (1984). 131 pp. Wester as author
  • Nelson, C. Louise. "Neglect of Economic Education in Webster's 'Blue-Backed Speller'" American Economist, Vol. 39, 1995 online edition
  • Pelanda, Brian. Declarations of Cultural Independence: The Nationalistic Imperative Behind the Passage of Early American Copyright Laws, 1783–1787 Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A., Vol. 58, p. 431, 2011.
  • Proudfit, Isabel. Noah Webster Father of the Dictionary (1966).
  • Rollins, Richard. The Long Journey of Noah Webster (1980) (ISBN 0-8122-7778-3)
  • Rollins, Richard M. "Words as Social Control: Noah Webster and the Creation of the American Dictionary". American Quarterly 1976 28(4): 415–430. ISSN 0003-0678 JSTOR 2712538.
  • Scudder, Horace E. (1881). Noah Webster. Cambridge, Mass.: The Riverside Press. (from the series American Men of Letters. New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company)
  • Snyder, K. Alan. Defining Noah Webster: Mind and Morals in the Early Republic. (1990). 421 pp.
  • Southard, Bruce. "Noah Webster: America's Forgotten Linguist." American Speech 1979 54(1): 12–22. ISSN 0003-1283 in Jstor
  • Unger, Harlow Giles. Noah Webster: The Life and Times of an American Patriot (1998), scholarly biography
  • Warfel, Harry R. Noah Webster: Schoolmaster to America (1936), a standard biography

Primary sources

  • Harry R. Warfel, ed., Letters of Noah Webster (1953),
  • Homer D. Babbidge Jr., ed., Noah Webster: On Being American (1967), selections from his writings
  • Webster, Noah. The American Spelling Book: Containing the Rudiments of the English Language for the Use of Schools in the United States by Noah Webster 1836 edition online, the famous Blue- Backed Speller
  • Webster, Noah. An American dictionary of the English language 1848 edition online
  • Webster, Noah. A grammatical institute of the English language 1800 edition online
  • Webster, Noah. Miscellaneous papers on political and commercial subjects 1802 edition online mostly about banks
  • Webster, Noah. A collection of essays and fugitiv writings: on moral, historical, political and literary subjects 1790 edition online 414 pages

External links

C with bar

The C with bar (majuscule: Ꞓ, minuscule: ꞓ), also known as barred C, is a modified letter of the Latin alphabet, formed from C with the addition of a bar. It was used in the orthography of Kildin Sami in the 1930s. It is also used in the orthography of Nanai. Its Unicode codepoints are U+A792 Ꞓ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER C WITH BAR and U+A793 ꞓ LATIN SMALL LETTER C WITH BAR.

The United States Federal Geographic Data Committee uses the capital barred C to represent the Cambrian Period in geologic history. In phonetic transcription, the lowercase barred C may denote a voiceless palatal fricative (IPA: [ç]), and in 1963 it was proposed as a symbol for a voiceless flat postalveolar fricative [ɻ̊˔] by William A. Smalley. In 19th-century American English dictionaries such as those by Noah Webster and William Holmes McGuffey, the letter was used to denote ⟨c⟩ pronounced as /k/.

Chauncey A. Goodrich

Chauncey Allen Goodrich (October 23, 1790 – February 25, 1860) was an American clergyman, educator and lexicographer. He was the son-in-law of Noah Webster and edited his Dictionary after his father-in-law's death.

Copyright Act of 1831

The Copyright Act of 1831 was the first major revision to the U.S. Copyright Law. The bill is largely the result of lobbying efforts by American lexicographer Noah Webster.

The key changes in the Act included:

Extension of the original copyright term from 14 years to 28 years, with an option to renew the copyright for another 14 year

Addition of musical compositions to the list of statutorily protected works (though this protection only extended to reproductions of compositions in printed form; the public performance right was not recognized until later)

Extension of the statute of limitations on copyright actions from one year to two

Changes in copyright formality requirements

Finger (unit)

A finger (sometimes fingerbreadth or finger's breadth) is any of several units of measurement that are approximately the width of an adult human finger, including:

The digit, also known as digitus or digitus transversus (Latin), dactyl (Greek) or dactylus, or finger's breadth — ​3⁄4 of an inch or ​1⁄16 of a foot.In medicine and related disciplines (anatomy, radiology, etc.) the fingerbreadth (literally the width of a finger) is an informal but widely used unit of measure.In the measurement of distilled spirits, a finger of whiskey refers to the amount of whiskey that would fill a glass to the level of one finger wrapped around the glass at the bottom.Another definition (from Noah Webster): "nearly an inch."Finger is also the name of a longer unit of length used in cloth measurement, specifically, one eighth of a yard or 4​1⁄2 inches.In English these units have mostly fallen out of use, apart from the common use in distilled drinks and drinking games.

Goshen Central High School

Goshen Central High School educates students in grades 9-12 from the Goshen Central School District, which largely overlaps the town and village of the same name in Orange County, New York, United States. It is located just outside the north end of the village, located at the end of a short access road off Scotchtown Avenue behind the district's school bus garage and Scotchtown Avenue Elementary School.

Constructed in 1976, it is the newest of the district's four buildings. Many period architectural elements are in evidence within, from the earth tones predominant in the hallways and classrooms, carpeting in some, skylights and a courtyard in the south wing. The school's library is named for Noah Webster, who taught in Goshen as a young man in the late 18th century.

The 1997 Boys' Cross Country team is the only GHS team to win a state championship.

The 2009 Odyssey of the Mind team won the world championship.

The Boys' Varsity Tennis team has not lost a Conference Title in over 10 years.

The Mock Trial team has won the county championship for mock trial in Orange County for nine of the last ten years, 2005-2014.


The Ingaevones [ɪŋ.ɡae̯.ˈwoː.neːs] were a West Germanic cultural group living along the North Sea coast in the areas of Jutland, Holstein, and Frisia in the classical period. Tribes in this area included the Frisii, Chauci, (later replaced by the Saxons) and Jutes.

The name is sometimes given by modern editors or translators as Ingvaeones, on the assumption that this is more likely to be the correct form, since an etymology can be formed for it as 'son of Yngvi', Yngvi occurring later as a Scandinavian divine name. Hence the postulated common group of closely related dialects of the "Ingvaeones" is called Ingvaeonic or North Sea Germanic.Tacitus' source categorized the Ingaevones near the ocean as one of the three tribal groups descended from the three sons of Mannus, son of Tuisto, progenitor of all the Germanic peoples, the other two being the Irminones and the Istaevones. According to the speculations of Rafael von Uslar, this threefold subdivision of the West Germanic tribes corresponds to archeological evidence from Late Antiquity. Pliny ca 80 CE in his Natural History (IV.28) lists the Ingaevones as one of the five Germanic races, the others being the Vandili, the Istvaeones, the Hermiones and the Bastarnae. According to him, the Ingaevones were made up of Cimbri, Teutons and Chauci.

Stripped of its Latin ending, the Ingvaeon are the Ingwine, "friends of Ing" familiar from Beowulf, where Hrothgar is "Lord of the Ingwine"—whether one of them or lord over them being ambiguous.

Ing, the legendary father of the Ingaevones/Ingvaeones derives his name from a posited proto-Germanic *Ingwaz, signifying "man" and "son of", as Ing, Ingo or Inguio, son of Mannus. This is also the name applied to the Viking era deity Freyr, known in Sweden as Yngvi-Freyr and mentioned as Yngvi-Freyr in Snorri Sturluson's Ynglinga saga. Jacob Grimm, in his Teutonic Mythology considers this Ing to have been originally identical to the obscure Scandinavian Yngvi, eponymous ancestor of the Swedish royal house of the Ynglinga, the "Inglings" or sons of Ing. Ing appears in the set of verses composed about the 9th century and printed under the title The Old English Rune Poem by George Hickes in 1705:

Ing wæs ærest mid Est-Denum

Gesewen secgum, oþ he siððan est

Ofer wæg gewat; wæn æfter ran;

Þus heardingas þone hæle nemdun.

An Ingui is also listed in the Anglo-Saxon royal house of Bernicia and was probably once seen as the progenitor of all Anglian kings. Since the Ingaevones form the bulk of the Anglo-Saxon settlement in Britain, they were speculated by Noah Webster to have given England its name, and Grigsby remarks that on the continent "they formed part of the confederacy known as the 'friends of Ing' and in the new lands they migrated to in the 5th and 6th centuries. In time, they would name these lands Angle-land, and it is tempting to speculate that the word Angle was derived from, or thought of as a pun on, the name of Ing."According to the Trojan genealogy of Nennius in the Historia Brittonum, Mannus becomes "Alanus" and Ing, his son, becomes Neugio. The three sons of Neugio are named Boganus, Vandalus and Saxo—from whom came the peoples of the Bogari, the Vandals, and the Saxons and Thuringii.

Joseph Emerson Worcester

Joseph Emerson Worcester (August 24, 1784 – October 27, 1865) was an American lexicographer who was the chief competitor to Noah Webster of Webster's Dictionary in the mid-nineteenth-century. Their rivalry became known as the "dictionary wars". Worcester's dictionaries focused on traditional pronunciation and spelling, unlike Noah Webster's attempts to Americanize words. Worcester was respected by American writers and his dictionary maintained a strong hold on the American marketplace until a later, posthumous version of Webster's book appeared in 1864. After Worcester's death in 1865, their war ended.

Konrad Duden

Konrad Alexander Friedrich Duden (3 January 1829 – 1 August 1911) was a Gymnasium (high school) teacher who became a philologist. He founded the well-known German language dictionary bearing his name Duden, somewhat like Noah Webster in the United States.


Merriam-Webster, Inc., is an American company that publishes reference books and is especially known for its dictionaries.

In 1828, George and Charles Merriam founded the company as G & C Merriam Co. in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1843, after Noah Webster died, the company bought the rights to An American Dictionary of the English Language from Webster's estate. All Merriam-Webster dictionaries trace their lineage to this source.

In 1964, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. acquired Merriam-Webster, Inc. as a subsidiary. The company adopted its current name in 1982.

New Haven Museum and Historical Society

The New Haven Museum and Historical Society (originally known as the New Haven Colony Historical Society) was founded in 1862 in New Haven, Connecticut for the purposes of preserving and presenting the region’s history. The museum has a collection containing art, photography, furniture and other artifacts from throughout New Haven’s history and regularly presents programs and special exhibits.The Museum features exhibitions on New Haven, La Amistad, local art and decorative arts, with collections associated with Eli Whitney, Winchester, Yale, East Rock, Noah Webster, Benedict Arnold as well as changing exhibitions. Educational programs provide interactive inquiry-based learning on local history.The Whitney Research Library at the museum contains manuscript and archival holdings relevant to the New Haven area from the time of the first settlement to the present. The collection includes rare books, more than 300 manuscript collections, including personal papers, business and institutional records, court and municipal documents, maps, 4,000 architectural drawings and resources, account books and a collection of approximately 75,000 photographs. It also contains approximately 30,000 printed titles including monographs and pamphlets. The library also includes genealogical materials, vital statistics and colonial and town records, passenger arrival lists to American ports, Federal census schedules for New Haven County on microfilm and a complete set of New Haven city directories from 1840.The Colonial revival style current building was built in 1929 and was designed by J. Frederick Kelly. The building includes a number of artifacts from demolished New Haven houses including a mantelpiece and urns from the Nathan Smith house and a mantelpiece from the Benedict Arnold house. The Ingersoll Room in the museum is decorated with furniture and portraits from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries documenting the home and life of New Haven’s Ingersoll family.

Noah Hutchings

Noah Webster Hutchings (December 11, 1922 – June 17, 2015) was the president (presidency ended in March 2015) of Southwest Radio Church Ministries, a Christian broadcasting company based in Oklahoma City. For six decades, he was the host of their nationally syndicated radio show Your Watchman On The Wall, which is broadcast daily on stations across the USA.

Your Watchman on The Wall's main focus is biblical prophecy and exposition of end times theories as well as conservative Christian apologetics. Hutchings also contributed to the ministry's two monthly publications, Bible in the News magazine and Prophetic Observer newsletter.

Noah Webster House

The Noah Webster House is a historic house museum located at 227 South Main Street, West Hartford, Connecticut. It was the home of American lexicographer Noah Webster (1758-1853), and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962.

Noah Webster Memorial Library (1917 building)

The 1917 Noah Webster Memorial Library building is a historic library building at 7 North Main Street in West Hartford, Connecticut. Built to a design by the Hartford firm Davis & Brooks, it is a prominent local example of Colonial Revival architecture. It housed the town library library (founded in 1897) between 1917 and 1937, and later served as a YMCA/YWCA hall and a senior center. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. It is now used as a commercial space.

North American English

North American English (NAmE, NAE) is the most generalized variety of the English language as spoken in the United States and Canada. Because of their related histories and cultures and the similarities between the pronunciation, vocabulary, and accent of American English and Canadian English, the two spoken dialects are often grouped together under a single category. Due to historical and cultural factors, Canadian English and American English retain numerous distinctions from each other, with the differences being most noticeable in the two languages' written forms. Canadian spellings are primarily based on British usage as a result of Canada's longer-standing connections with the United Kingdom. Canadians are generally tolerant of both British and American spellings, with British spellings being favored in more formal settings and in Canadian print media. Spellings in American English have been highly influenced by lexicographers like Noah Webster, who sought to create a standardized form of English that was independent of British English. Despite these differences, the dialects of both Canada and the United States are similar. The United Empire Loyalists who fled the American Revolution have had a large influence on Canadian English from its early roots.Some terms in North American English are used almost exclusively in Canada and the United States (for example, the terms diaper and gasoline are widely used instead of nappy and petrol). Although many English speakers from outside North America regard such terms as distinct Americanisms, they are often just as common in Canada, mainly due to the effects of heavy cross-border trade and cultural penetration by the American mass media. The list of divergent words becomes longer if considering regional Canadian dialects, especially as spoken in the Atlantic provinces and parts of Vancouver Island where significant pockets of British culture still remain.

There are a considerable number of different accents within the regions of both the United States and Canada, originally deriving from the accents prevalent in different English, Scottish and Irish regions of the British Isles and corresponding to settlement patterns of these peoples in the colonies. These were developed and built upon as new waves of immigration, and migration across the North American continent, brought new accents and dialects to new areas, and as these ways of speaking merged and assimilated with the population. It is claimed that despite the centuries of linguistic changes there is still a resemblance between the English East Anglia accents which would have been used by early English settlers in New England (including the Pilgrims), and modern Northeastern United States accents. Similarly, the accents of Newfoundland have some similarities to the accents of Scotland and Ireland.

Riphean Mountains

For a location on the Moon, see Montes RiphaeusThe Riphean Mountains are mountains mentioned by authors of classical antiquity (Apollonius of Rhodes, Aristotle, Hecataeus of Miletus, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, Plutarch, and others), but whose location is uncertain.

Later Roman writers applied the term to mountains in the north of Europe or Asia. Pomponius Mela placed them within the Arctic Circle. Pliny the Elder assigned them to the Ural Mountains. Noah Webster wrote that the earliest geographers applied the term to the Alps in Switzerland and claimed that they are the source of the Danube. All sources agree that the Riphean mountains were cold and blanketed in snow.The people living around the mountains in antiquity were variously called Riphaeans (Mela), Arimphaei (Pliny), or Arimaspi. The name of the mountains has also been connected by Christian theologians with Riphath, son of Gomer in Genesis 10. The Book of Jubilees (8:12, 16, 28) mentions a mountain range it calls Rafa, which Professor R. H. Charles associated with the Riphaean, i.e. Ural Mountains.

The Montes Riphaeus mountain range on the Moon is named after the Riphean Mountains.

The Riphean geochronological period was also named after the Riphean Mountains, referring to the Ural Mountains.

The American Museum (magazine)

The American Museum was a monthly American literary magazine published by Mathew Carey in the late-18th century. The American Museum "shares with the Columbian Magazine the honor of being the first successful American magazine."Carey established the magazine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, using $400 that was given to him by Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Carey published a total of 72 issues (twelve volumes) of the magazine—one each month from January 1787 to December 1792. The magazine reprinted significant historical documents of American history and also some original work.

In its first edition, The American Museum republished Thomas Paine's Common Sense. The proposed Constitution of the United States was first published in the magazine. Contributors to the magazine included John Adams, Timothy Dwight IV, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Freneau, Alexander Hamilton, Francis Hopkinson, David Humphreys, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Rush, John Trumbull, George Washington and Noah Webster.

The American Museum had approximately 1250 subscribers, including many of the notable men of the United States. (In the July 1787 edition, Carey included a list of subscribers, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.) However, many of the subscriptions were credit accounts and the magazine was not profitable. As a result, Carey was forced to stop publication at the end of 1792.

The Rudiments of English Grammar

The Rudiments of English Grammar (1761) was a popular English grammar textbook written by the 18th-century British polymath Joseph Priestley.

While a minister for a congregation in Nantwich, Cheshire, Priestley established a local school; it was his first successful educational venture. Believing that all students should have a good grasp of English and its grammar before learning any other language, and dismayed at the quality of the instruction manuals available, Priestley wrote his own textbook: The Rudiments of English Grammar (1761). The book was very successful—it was reprinted for over fifty years. Its humor may have contributed to its popularity; for example, Priestley illustrated the couplet with this rhyme:

Beneath this stone my wife doth lie:

She's now at rest, and so am I.Priestley also quoted from the most famous English authors, encouraging the middle-class association between reading and pleasure, a reading that would also, Priestley hoped, foster morality. Priestley's innovations in the teaching and description of English grammar, particularly his efforts to dissociate it from Latin grammar, made his textbook revolutionary and have led 20th century scholars to describe him as "one of the great grammarians of his time." Rudiments influenced all of the major British grammarians of the late 18th century: Robert Lowth, James Harris, John Horne Tooke and even the American Noah Webster. The resounding success of Priestley's book was one of the reasons that Warrington Academy offered him a teaching position in 1761.

Webster's Dictionary

Webster's Dictionary is any of the dictionaries edited by Noah Webster in the early nineteenth century, and numerous related or unrelated dictionaries that have adopted the Webster's name. "Webster's" has become a genericized trademark in the U.S. for dictionaries of the English language, and is widely used in English dictionary titles. Merriam-Webster is the corporate heir to Noah Webster's original works, which are in the public domain.

West Hartford, Connecticut

West Hartford is a town in Hartford County, Connecticut, United States, 5 miles (8.0 km) west of downtown Hartford. The population was 63,268 at the 2010 census.The town's popular downtown area is colloquially known as "West Hartford Center," or simply "The Center," and is centered on Farmington Avenue and South/North Main Street. West Hartford Center has been the community's main hub since the late 17th century. In 2008, Blue Back Square opened as a new addition to the central area, which includes a bookstore, a movie theater, two parking garages, various physician and medical offices, and several restaurants.

Incorporated as a town in 1854, West Hartford was previously a parish of Hartford, founded in 1672. Among the southernmost of the communities in the Hartford-Springfield Knowledge Corridor metropolitan region, West Hartford is home to University of Hartford and the University of Saint Joseph.

In 2010, Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine listed West Hartford as one of the nation's "10 Great Cities for Raising Families" and ranked it #9 on its "10 Best Cities for the Next Decade" list. Also in 2010, CNN Money ranked West Hartford the 55th best small city in America and called it one of 10 "coolest" suburbs in the nation, and the West Hartford Reservoir off Farmington Avenue "West Hartford's version of Central Park," noting the town's "vacation-worthy hot spots, with cutting-edge restaurants, great shopping, and plenty of parking."

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