Some of the country’s greatest thinkers had obsessive natures, and many of their greatest achievements—from the Declaration of Independence to the invention of the iPhone—have roots in the disappointments and frustrations of early childhood. Joshua Kendall looks at the arc of American history through the lens of compulsive behavior. In his book the America’s Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy that Built a Nation he presents portraits of American icons such as Charles Lindbergh, Steve Jobs, Thomas Jefferson, condiment kingpin H. J. Heinz, slugger Ted Williams, and Estee Lauder, and looks at how they shaped our culture and country.
Joshua Kendall talks about the life and legacy of Noah Webster, In The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture, he reveals that there’s more to his story than the dictionary he created—he was a young confidant of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, he started New York City's first daily newspaper, he influenced early copyright law, he helped found Amherst College, served as a representative for both Connecticut and Massachusetts, and was an ardent supporter of a unified, definitively American culture.
205 years ago, a lawyer-turned-textbook writer-turned-newspaper-editor published the first American English dictionary. It was 1806, and the title was “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.” That man’s name was Noah Webster. And today, his name is synonymous with the word “dictionary” in the U.S. Joshua Kendall is the author of a new biography on Webster called: “The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster’s Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture.” Joshua joins us from our partner, the WGBH, in Boston.