John Russell Bartlett (1805-1886), American historical and linguistic student, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on the 23rd of October 1805. From his first to his eighteenth year he lived in Kingston, Canada; he was then in turn, from 1824 to 1836, a clerk in a dry goods store, a book-keeper and a bank cashier at Providence, and for more than ten years after 1836 he was a bookseller in New York City, returning to Providence in 1850. In 1850-1853 he was the commissioner on the part of the United States for the survey of the boundary between the United States and Mexico, but owing to the lack of funds did not finish the work. After being superseded by another commissioner upon the accession of President Franklin Pierce, he published A Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora and Chihuahua (2 vols., 1854), which contains much valuable scientific and historical material concerning the south-west. From 1855 to 1872 he was secretary of state of Rhode Island, and while serving in this capacity thoroughly re-arranged and classified the state records, and prepared various bibliographies and compilations, relating chiefly to the history of the state.
He is chiefly remembered however, for his Dictionary of Americanisms (1848), a pioneer work, which, although later dialect changes have, of course, deprived it of completeness or final authoritativeness, is still of value to students of language and remains the chief contribution to the subject. He died in Providence on the 28th of May 1886.