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Primary Documents in American History

Homestead Act

Daniel Freeman standing, holding gun, with hatchet tucked in belt.
Daniel Freeman Standing, Holding Gun, with Hatchet Tucked in Belt,
The "first homesteader" to settle in Beatrice, Nebraska, 1863,
copyright 1904.
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:

Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862, the Homestead Act encouraged Western migration by providing settlers 160 acres of public land. In exchange, homesteaders paid a small filing fee and were required to complete five years of continuous residence before receiving ownership of the land. After six months of residency, homesteaders also had the option of purchasing the land from the government for $1.25 per acre. The Homestead Act led to the distribution of 80 million acres of public land by 1900.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a Nation

This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.

Search in the 37th Congress using the word "homestead" to find more Congressional documents related to the Homestead Act.

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

The complete Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 20,000 documents.

Search this collection using the word "homestead" to find more documents related to the Homestead Act.

America's Library

Jump Back in Time: The Homestead Act Went Into Effect, May 20, 1862.

Today in History

May 20, 1862

The Homestead Act was signed into law on May 20, 1862.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

Act of May 20, 1862 (Homestead Act), Public Law 37-64 (12 STAT 392), National Archives and Records Administration

Frontier House: Homestead History, PBS

Homestead National Monument of America, National Park Service

Our Documents, Homestead Act, National Archives and Records Administration

Teaching With Documents: The Homestead Act of 1862, National Archives and Records Administration

Selected Bibliography

Cross, Coy F. Go West, Young Man!: Horace Greeley's Vision for America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995. [Catalog Record]

Lee, Lawrence Bacon. Kansas and the Homestead Act, 1862-1905. New York: Arno Press, 1979. [Catalog Record]

Ottoson, Howard W., ed. Land Use Policy and Problems in the United States. Edited by Howard W. Ottoson. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1963. [Catalog Record]

Stephenson, George Malcolm. The Political History of the Public Lands From 1840 to 1862; From Preemption to Homestead. New York: Russell & Russell, 1967. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Foran, Jill. Homesteading. Mankato, Minn.: Weigl Publishers, 2003. [Catalog Record]

Landau, Elaine. The Homestead Act. New York: Children's Press, 2006. [Catalog Record]

Porterfield, Jason. The Homestead Act of 1862: A Primary Source History of the Settlement of the American Heartland in the Late 19th Century. New York: Rosen, 2005. [Catalog Record]

Raabe, Emily. Pioneers: Life as a Homesteader. New York: PowerKids Press, 2003. [Catalog Record]

Stein, R. Conrad. The Story of the Homestead Act. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1978. [Catalog Record]

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  March 19, 2015
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