Noah Webster. Photo is in the Public Domain in the United States

“Language is the expression of ideas, and if the people of one country cannot preserve an identity of ideas they cannot retain an identity of language.” ~ Noah Webster

Noah Webster was an academic by nature. His mother taught him at home spelling, mathematics, and music. He then attended a one-room schoolhouse which he didn’t enjoy and later wrote about the terrible conditions. He went onto Yale and later studied law.

Webster became an educator himself set on teaching American children in an American way. He threw off the shackles of the British education system and books. He began writing his own textbooks. One being the Blue-Backed Speller. It was part of a  3 part series known collectively as 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[30] of pedantry” that surrounded English grammar and pronunciation.” Webster finished his first dictionary in 1806. It was titled, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.

Original copies of his handwritten dictionary notes. This photo is in the Public Domain in the United States.

In 1793, Webster was asked by Alexander Hamilton to write for the Federalist Party newspaper. He also served in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

Upon Webster’s death in 1843, George and Charles Merriam acquired the rights to his dictionary. This is why it is called the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to this date. To learn more about this man, who desired nothing more than to preserve the American Spirit through written words, see our website for a selection of books for all ages.

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