Above is a handwritten draft of Connecticut native Noah Webster’s “American Dictionary of the English Language,” which was first published 187 years ago today on April 14, 1828.
The book, which Webster worked on for two decades, contained more than 70,000 entries, including 10,000 new words believed to be distinctly American. You can see from those listed here that many of these “Americanisms” came from the Indians, and were learned by Colonial settlers, while others represented young America’s new system of government:
caribou, chowder, congressional, gubernatorial, hickory, log house, moccasin, moose, skunk, squash, succotash, tomahawk, wigwam
Believing that many traditional, British spellings were unnecessarily complex and confusing, Webster also simplified the spelling of many words, including changing:
centre to center, colour to color, musick to music, plough to plow
Webster was a teacher, lawyer and abolitionist. He died in 1843, but he can still be seen, felt and learned from at locations throughout Connecticut.
In West Hartford, his birthplace and childhood home is now a museum: the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society.
Also in West Hartford, a statue of Webster stands outside the city’s public library.
At Webster’s alma mater, Yale University in New Haven, an 8-foot likeness of Webster is one of eight statues that stand at either side of the clockfaces on Harkness Tower on High Street.
Webster is also buried in New Haven along with many other notable Connecticut residents at (the always-worth-a-visit) Grove Street Cemetery.