As a young adult, Noah Webster was a
teacher At this time the colonies were fighting for independence from Britain.
Yet the books that American children used in school all came from Britain. The
books were all about British people and British places. Webster wanted books
that would mean more to American children. So he wrote three books that used
American examples--a grammar book, a spelling book, and a reader. These books
were very popular, and millions of them were sold.
Webster was interested in changing the
spellings of words. He wanted words to be spelled the way they were pronounced.
For example, he thought the word head should be spelled "hed," and
the word laugh should be spelled "laf." People liked Webster's
suggestions. Unfortunately, though, few words were changed. One group of words
that were changed were words in which an unpronounced u followed an o. That is
why Americans write color and labor, and the British write colour and labour.
With the money he made from his books,
Webster was able to start on his great work. This work took more than twenty
years to write. It was the first American English dictionary, published in
1828. Webster's dictionary had over 70,000 words, and gave the meaning and
origin of each. To this day, Webster's work is the example that most
dictionaries of American English follow.