Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Single Greatest Stimulus to the American Economy Ever Enacted

The Homestead Act of 1862 had an immediate and enduring effect upon the United States.  Under this law, more than 270 million acres, approximately 10 percent of the land in the United States, was transferred from the public domain to private individuals.  This great transformation led to profound and lasting changes to the land, American Indians, immigration, industry, and agriculture. 

A homesteader had only to be the head of a household or at least 21 years of age to claim a 160 acre parcel of land. Settlers from all walks of life including newly arrived immigrants, farmers without land of their own from the East, women and African Americans came to meet the challenge of "proving up" and owning their own land. Each homesteader had to live on the land, build a home, and make agriculture improvements for 5 years, in some cases 3, before they were eligible to "prove up".  The cost of filing the paperwork was the only money required, but sacrifice and hard work exacted a different price from the hopeful settlers.

The Homestead Act of 1862 was one of the most revolutionary concepts for distributing public land in American history. The effects of this monumental piece of legislation can be observed throughout America today.  The agricultural and industrial revolutions that shaped our nations identity were the result of millions of acres of land coming under cultivation. The Homestead Act of 1862 contributed to the expansion of the economy of the United States, spurred immigration, advanced transportation and communication networks, and facilitated unprecedented social opportunity and mobility. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy called the Homestead Act the “single greatest stimulus to the American economy ever enacted”.  At the start of the Homesteading Era, the United States was a small agrarian nation, by the end of the Homesteading Era; the United States had emerged as the largest super power in the history of the world. 

Come experience this exceptional history as you journey the Homestead Express!  Partners from Lincoln and Beatrice have teamed up to create a unique experience and commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act.  Partners include The Sheldon Museum of Art, Pioneers Park Nature Center, The Children’s Museum, The Children’s Zoo, The Nebraska Museum of History, Lincoln City Libraries, the Michael Forsberg Gallery, Main Street Beatrice-Lang Building and Homestead National Monument of America. 

These venues will be issuing game boards that will guide visitors to each site where they will be issued a special stamp.  In addition to the stamps, each partner will have special activities planned, including a train ride, doll making, home building, and much, much more!  When all the stamps have been acquired, bring the completed game board out to Homestead National Monument of America where visitors will receive a commemorative prize.  The Homestead Express is a perfect way for individuals and families to get involved in the commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of history.    

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Chautauqua Calendar

  • May 20: Meet the Chautauquans 11:00 am Chautauqua Park Beatrice
  • May 20: 150th Anniversary Begins 6:00 pm Homestead