Noah Webster, 1758–1843

[Mentioned in Science and Health, p. 115; Miscellaneous Writings, p. 68; Rudimental Divine Science, p. 2; No and Yes, p. 9; Christian Science versus Pantheism, p. 2; Message to The Mother Church for 1901, p. 3]

Noah Webster, America's great lexicographer, was first known to his fellow countrymen as "the schoolmaster of the young Republic." While a student at Yale, he determined to become a lawyer, and after graduation he taught school to defray the expenses of law study. The need for better textbooks was met by his compiling a spelling book. The year after its publication he added a grammar and the following year a reader. The three appeared under the title "The American Spelling Book and An American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking."

Because there were no copyright laws, Webster traveled up and down the country urging legislation and eventually succeeded in having such laws passed in 6 states. During his travels he came to know many of the leaders of the country and became an ardent Federalist. His patriotism, which had been quickened during his first year at Yale when he played in the band that excorted Washington through New Haven on his way to take command of the Army and again during his second year when he heard the Declaration of Independence read in college chapel, was now expressed in a pamphlet, "Sketches of American Policy."

On his tours Webster became impressed with the need for a unified language. After practicing law and editing several publications, he retired in 1803 to work on "A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language." It was published in 1806 and incorporated 5000 words not previously included in an English dictionary.

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Signs of the Times
January 14, 1956

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