Excellent article! I was aware that Webster had argued for a distinctly American version of the language, but the history you lay out makes a fascinating story.
Dictionaries are of particular importance when one reads poetry. In prose, you can often skip past an unfamiliar word, sussing out its meaning from the context. Not so in poetry, where every word is (or should be) chosen with great care for sound and shades of meaning, and the whole point of the poem may hinge on a single word.
The professor (Sandra Longhorn) in our MFA workshops at UCA has a simple rule for any unfamiliar word we find in any poem she assigns: "Look it up or die."