Viewing Homestead Act of 1862
The Homestead Act was signed by President Lincoln on May 20, 1862. By fulfilling certain statutory requirements--filing an application, "improving" the land by actually settling on and cultivating it, and filing for a deed after five years--a settler could acquire title to 160 acres of previously undeveloped land in new states and territories. According to Paul Gates, a noted historian of the public lands, it was "one of the most important laws which have ever been enacted in the history of this country." It was repealed in 1976, although homesteading was permitted in Alaska until 1986.