Today in History: Homestead Act

Homstead Act commemorative stamp
Today in History–May 20–the Library of Congress features the Homestead Act, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on this day in 1862. Designed to spur Western migration, the Homestead Act allowed U.S. citizens 21 years and older to earn 160 acres of land by paying a $10 filing fee and living on and farming the land for five years.  Learn more about the Homestead Act by visiting the Today in History section, then click the links below to access related primary sources.

Speech by U.S. Representative Galusha Aaron Grow “Free Homes for Free Men” February 29, 1860

Speech by M. S. Wilkinson of Minnesota in the U.S. Senate The homestead bill April 3, 1860

House of Representatives passes the Homestead Act February 28, 1862

Senate passes the Homestead Act May 6, 1862

Homestead Act May 20, 1862 National Archives and Records Administration

John Sluggett to Abraham Lincoln January 24, 1861 (Canadian seeks information on Homestead bill)

Ignatius Donnelly to Abraham Lincoln October 01, 1864 (Sale of lands in Minnesota)

Select historical newspaper articles

Periodical articles

Front-page newspaper coverage for the Homestead Act (1836-1886)

Homesteading image set

Homesteading: American life histories

Rural Life in the Late 19th Century (American Memory timeline)

Frontier House: Homestead History PBS

The Homestead Act of 1862 In Custodia Legis May 20, 2019

Homestead and Mining Claims in 19th Century America Library of Congress Blog May 21, 2013

Homestead National Monument of America National Park Service

An Act To allow additional entries under the enlarged Homestead Act (p. 925) February 20, 1917

The Homestead Act and Homesteading primary source learning activity

Modern-day homestead legislation