September 17, 2008
AMHERST, Mass.—The Archives and Special Collections Department of the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College and the Jones Library in the town of Amherst are together celebrating the life and accomplishments of Noah Webster, one of the founders of the college and a 10-year resident of the area, with exhibits on display through January and a birthday reception at Frost’s Archives and Special Collections Department on Thursday, Oct. 16. The exhibits—which commemorate the 250th anniversary of Webster’s birth on Oct. 16, 1758—represent the first time the Frost and Jones libraries have collaborated on a project. Both the exhibits and the reception are free and open to the public.
Webster was the founder and first president of the board of trustees of the Amherst Academy and one of the principal founders of Amherst College. He gave the main address at a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the first college building, South Dormitory, and was subsequently elected the second president of the school’s board of trustees at the end of the ceremonies.
Beyond his association with the college and town, Webster—often called “the father of the American language”—is perhaps best known for the dictionaries that still bear his name. His American Dictionary, first published in 1828 and originally sold for $20, contained 70,000 words and became the standard dictionary in the United States. Webster also helped teach generations of U.S. students the same words, spellings, pronunciations, stories and moral lessons with “Blue-back Spellers,” grammars and readers he published in the 18th and 19th centuries; American schools and individuals have purchased more than 70 million since he first penned them. (The publications were so widely used that Webster helped write and encouraged the passage of American copyright legislation to protect them.) A prolific author, he published books in the fields of politics, medicine, theology and history as well.
The Frost Library exhibit is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The complementary exhibit at the Jones Library, featuring Webster’s life in Amherst from 1812 to 1822, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Monday and Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m.