Video: Noah Webster, the Forgotten Founding Father

Get to know Noah Webster, a brusque, ambitious intellectual who influences you every time you speak or start to write.

Noah Webster was born in 1758 in Connecticut of a prestigious Puritan Yankee lineage. Although he tried variously to be a lawyer, a school teacher, and a newspaperman with various degrees of success, his talents always led him to write. Not fiction or poetry; instead, Webster was a born compiler of information. His reference book, The American Spelling Book was the first true bestseller of early American publishing and taught a young nation the rudiments of reading and writing.

In 1828 he published the groundbreaking American Dictionary of the English Language and secured his niche as an avatar of a distinct American culture. Biographer Joshua Kendall (The Man Who Made Lists) honors Webster’s crucial contributions to post-colonial nationhood by how he codified for ordinary people— merchants, secretaries, journalists and self-taught writers, for instance— what is now known as American English.