Noah Webster Family Papers
Noah Webster, influential American lexicographer, author and teacher, was born in 1758 in West Hartford, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale College in 1778, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1781. As a schoolteacher in New York State, he became dissatisfied with children's textbooks, which he felt ignored distinctive elements of American language and culture. In 1783 he published The American Spelling Book, the famed "Blue-backed Speller," a widely used and highly influential textbook that is still in print. Subsequent publications of a grammar (1784) and a reader (1785) formed, with the speller, Webster's three-part Grammatical Institute of the English Language. Webster's advocacy of spelling reform in this period was responsible for most of the differences that exist today between American and British spelling. After marrying Rebecca Greenleaf in 1789, Webster practiced law in Hartford until 1793. In New York City he then founded two newspapers, American Minerva (said to be New York's first daily newspaper) and The Herald, both of which he sold in 1803. He moved to New Haven in 1798, where he was active in local politics. In 1806 Webster published his Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. This work prepared the way for the achievement for which he is most famous, An American Dictionary of the English Language, containing over 70,000 entries and published in two volumes in 1828. (Later, George and Charles Merriam purchased the rights to this dictionary from Webster's estate.)
From 1812 to 1822, Webster and his family lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, where, living largely off the income from his published schoolbooks, he farmed, served in the Massachusetts legislature and continued work on his dictionary. In Amherst the Webster family lived in a house on Main Street, facing the Common. (This house was destroyed by fire in 1838.) As a trustee of Amherst Academy, he was involved in the founding of the Amherst Collegiate Institute, the precursor of Amherst College. In 1822 the family moved back to New Haven. Noah Webster died in New Haven in 1843.
Descendants of Noah Webster: The following is a partial listing of the descendants of Noah Webster who are represented in the Noah Webster Family Papers.
1. Noah Webster (1758-1843) m. Rebecca Greenleaf