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Sod House, Pennington County, South Dakota, photograph by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

A South Dakota homesteader posed by his sod house in 1936. Approximately two million claims were made under the Homestead Act.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Sod House, Pennington County, South Dakota

A Lasting Legacy

The Homestead Act was one of Congress’s most far-reaching laws. Congress amended the Homestead Act several times after 1862 and repealed it in 1976 under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, allowing a ten-year extension in Alaska. By 1986, when the last homesteader filed a claim, the federal government had transferred 270 million acres in thirty states to private citizens. The Homestead Act stimulated settlement of the west, promoted agriculture, and provided a foothold in the national economy to workers, immigrants, and freedmen.