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Noah Webster
Noah Webster pre-1843 IMG 4412.JPG
Noah Webster, Jr.

(1758-10-16)October 16, 1758
Died May 28, 1843(1843-05-28) (aged 84)
Resting place Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut
Alma mater Yale University
Occupation Lexicographer; Author
Connecticut state representative
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Rebecca Greenleaf Webster
Children Eight children
Portrait of Noah Webster
Webster by Samuel Finley Breese Morse, undated, oil on canvas. Yale University

Noah Webster, Jr. (October 16, 1758 – May 28, 1843), was the author of a famous American dictionary, a pioneer of spelling, and a political writer and editor. His "Blue-backed Speller" books taught five generations of American children how to spell and read. His dictionary was first published in 1828 as An American Dictionary of the English Language.


Webster worried that his Grammatical Institute might be pirated. He had to seek copyright protection from each state. At last, on May 31, 1790, President George Washington signed the United States’ first general copyright act into law. Later, Webster lobbied for an extended copyright law. He wrote “By this bill the term of copy-right is secured for 28 years, with the right of renewal … for 14 years more. If this should become law, I shall be much benefited.” The new federal copyright law was passed and remained in effect until 1909.

Webster's books

The Blue-backed Speller

  • 1783 as the first part of the Grammatical Institute of the English language.
  • 1786 as The American Spelling Book, containing the rudiments of the English language, for the use of schools in the United States.
  • 1829 as The Elementary Spelling Book.

385 'editions' (mostly reprints) in his lifetime; by 1837 15 million copies sold; by 1890 60 million copies sold.

The Dictionary

  • 1806 A first attempt was published as A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.
  • 1828 The first edition of his famous An American Dictionary of the English Language; second edition in 1840 in two volumes. The first edition sold only 2,500 copies.

Other publications

  • 1785. Sketches of American policy.
  • 1790. A collection of essays and fugitive writings on moral, historical, politics and literary subjects.
  • 1789. Dissertations.
  • 1793. The effects of slavery on morals and industry. In two volumes.
  • 1799. A brief history of epidemic and pestilential diseases.
  • 1800. A Grammatical Institute of the English Language. In three parts, part II is the grammar.
  • 1802. Letters to a young gentleman concerning his education.
  • 1802. Miscellaneous papers on political and commercial subjects.
  • 1832. History of the United States.
  • 1833. A dictionary for primary schools.
  • 1839. Observations on language, and on the errors of class-books.

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