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
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 Congress amended the Homestead Act several times after 1862 and repealed it in 1976 under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, allowing a ten-year extension in Alaska.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.