A rare piece of history will be on display at Homestead National Monument of America this spring as part of the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act of 1862.
That piece of history will be the actual Homestead Act.
On May 20th the United States will commemorate a monumental moment in history with the 150th Anniversary of the Homestead Act of 1862, a law that granted 160 acres of free land to individuals. While the first homestead was claimed in Nebraska, homesteading took place throughout the nation.
According to the National Park Service, millions of people have descended from homesteaders, including Whoopi Goldberg, Jewel, Lawrence Welk, George Washington Carver, Florida Senator Bill Nelson and legendary University of Nebraska football coach and former U.S. Congressman Tom Osborne.
Often considered by historians as one of the country’s most significant laws, the original Homestead Act of 1862 document signed in to law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20th, 1862, will be traveling to the Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska near the southeastern town of Beatrice.
It will be on display, for free, to the public from April 25 through May 28. Viewing times will be 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.
The Homestead Act, on loan from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., is rarely on display and it is believed that this will be the first time ever that all four pages will be on exhibition. Two of the four pages have been displayed prior, once during the State of North Dakota’s Centennial and also in 1976 for the nation’s bicentennial.
The Homestead Act, like the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, is considered to be one of the country's 100 milestone documents. While the original Homestead Act accelerated American Indian removal in some states, homesteading spanned 123 years until 1986 and resulted in the transformation of over 270 million acres of land in 30 states.
Blake Bell, the Park Service historian at the Homestead National Monument of America explained, “The Homestead Act was revolutionary for its time, providing former slaves and women the opportunity to pursue the American Dream of owning land.”
Under the Homestead Act, immigrants from around the world could also file for free land prior to becoming citizens of the United States. It is estimated that there are about 93 million living descendants of the Homestead Act that encouraged a movement that is tied to the development of the largest agriculture superpower the world has ever known.
As recently as January 2012, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress reported on The Top 10 Middle Class Acts of Congress, Laws that Helped Our Country Prosper. The first law on its list was the Homestead Act of 1862.
The public is encouraged to attend the 150th Signature Anniversary Event at the monument on May 20th from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the monument’s heritage center.
There is also a series of unique and fun events and activities free for the entire family that will take place at the monument throughout the period of time when the historic Homestead Act document is on display. Evening Chautauqua Tent Programs will be featured May 21st thru May 25th. Homestead Express, a pre-Chautauqua weekend event in Lincoln, Nebraska, is scheduled for May 19th thru May 20th.