Noah Webster Jr. gave us not only the first truly American dictionary, but an American language that is distinctive from traditional English. Author Joshua Kendall relates the story of Webster’s life in his new book, The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster’s Obsession and the Creator of an American Culture. The book just became available on April 14, published by G.P. Putman’s Sons, part of the Penguin Group. I was privileged to receive an advanced copy and more than happy to read it. Kendall has written about Webster before in several magazine articles and papers, as well as another man who shaped of our language, Peter Mark Roget. You may have heard or even used his Roget′s Thesaurus at some time.

Forgotten Founding Father  Noah Webster
The Forgotten Founding Father by Joshua Kendall is a fantastic biography of Noah Webster. Image courtesy of Penguin Group.

Kendall′s book on Webster takes us through his early childhood in Puritanical New England. Which explains where Webster developed the personal self-discipline he needed in later life to undertake creating a dictionary from scratch. His obsessive pathology needed to accomplish such a task was instilled into him by his father and grandfather, both strict authoritarians to say the least.

Webster was familiar with many of the other Founding Fathers during the Revolutionary War period, such as George Washington, Ben Franklin and others. Perhaps what drove Webster to develop a unique American form of English could be explained by the need to unify the 13 states after we became an independent nation, as well as the need to distinguish ourselves from Mother England. One must keep in mind that during the time leading up to the Revolution, we ′colonials′ were always looked down upon by aristocratic England. No matter how well we did at attempts to act and adopt English customs and etiquette, Americans were always considered inferior. Men of accomplishment, such as Ben Franklin, perhaps the first truly intercontinental celebrity, was still just a common colonial by the standards of English high-society.

Most of the new book, The Forgotten Founding Father, by Joshua Kendall, deals with the long and painful struggle as Noah Webster worked on his lexicon. Thus the subtitle, Noah Webster’s Obsession and the Creator of an American Culture, is very apt. The book is a genuinely fascinating read and provides delightful incites into our nation′s early history. Published by G.P. Putman’s Sons, part of the Penguin Group, The Forgotten Founding Father by Joshua Kendall is available now in bookstores and online.

Related Articles:

The Forgotten Founding Father – Books by Joshua Kendall

Joshua Kendall, Author, Journalist and Biographer

Noah Webster’s Touch of Madness and the Birth of American English, Part One