Family tree of Noah WEBSTER


AmericanBorn Noah WEBSTER

American lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author

Born on October 16, 1758 in West Hartford, Connecticut, USA , United States

Died on May 28, 1843 in New Haven, Connecticut, USA

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Webster was born in West Hartford, Connecticut to an established Yankee family. His father, Noah Sr. (1722–1813), was a descendant of Connecticut Governor John Webster; his mother Mercy (née Steele; 1727-1794) was a descendant of Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony. 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. After American independence, he was appointed a justice of the peace.

Though he never attended college, Webster's father was intellectually curious and prized education; his mother spent long hours teaching Noah and his siblings spelling, mathematics and music. At the age of six, Webster began attending a dilapidated one room primary school that had been 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. Webster's negative experiences in primary school motivated him to improve the education experience of future generations.


At the age of fourteen, he began receiving tutoring in Latin and Greek from his church pastor to prepare for entrance to Yale College. He enrolled at Yale just shy of his 16th birthday, studying during his senior year with the learned Ezra Stiles, Yale's president. His four years at Yale overlapped with the American Revolutionary War, and because of food shortages and threatened invasions by the British, many of his college classes were held in other towns. He served in the Connecticut Militia. His father had mortgaged the farm to send Webster to Yale, but the son was now on his own and had no more to do with his family.

Webster lacked firm career plans after graduating from Yale in 1778, later writing that a liberal education "disqualifies a man for business". He briefly taught school in Glastonbury, found the working conditions to be harsh and the pay low, then left to study law to increase in earning power. While studying law under the mentorship of Oliver Ellsworth, the future U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, Webster held a full-time job teaching in Hartford—a schedule he found grueling, and ultimately impossible to sustain.

After quitting his legal studies for a year and lapsing into a depression, he found another practicing attorney to mentor him, completing his studies and passing the bar examination in 1781. However, with the Revolutionary War still ongoing, he could not find employment as a lawyer. He picked up a masters degree from Yale for giving an oral dissertation to the Yale graduating class, and later that year opened a small, private school in western Connecticut that was an instant success, though he quickly closed it and left town—likely due to a failed romance. Turning to literary work as a way to overcome his losses and channel his ambitions, 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. 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. Proceeds from continuing sales of the popular blue-backed speller enabled Webster to spend many years working on his famous dictionary.

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Geographical origins

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