As a college librarian, I often hear stressed-out students searching for primary sources say, "I'll take anything." Don't settle for just anything. There is a treasury of primary source material available electronically. Peruse my selection of 200-plus primary source sites by conducting a keyword search, exploring the tag cloud at left, or browsing by historical era. You can also visit my Delicious and Diigo sites to review my bookmarks. Here's hoping you find what you're looking for.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Homestead Act 148 years on

Searching for primary source materials can be an extraordinarily easy task when the Library of Congress does all the work for you. I view the library’s American Memory Project as a go-to-site for digitized primary source materials. However, the library’s collection of resources for researchers can, in some cases, provide one-stop-shopping for such images and documents. Take the Homestead Act, for example. Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln 148 years ago today, that legislation was devised to provide small farmers with the opportunity to purchase public land at minimal cost. The act gave 160 acres of land to any applicant, both citizens and intended citizens, who was the head of a household and 21 years or older, provided that the person settled on the land for five years and then paid a small filing fee. Under the Library of Congress’s resources for researchers section, you’ll find web guides which feature primary documents in American History. Those web guides are organized by historical period and subdivided further by particular issues or events. Browse through the Homestead Act Guide and you will find links to digitized copies of the Congressional Globe, a periodical which published the floor debate that preceded the act’s passage. You’ll also find digitized copies of articles concerning the act that appeared in periodicals of the day, and a copy of a letter written by a Canadian citizen to President Lincoln, inquiring as to how he could take advantage of the act. The photo above comes from The National Archives and shows a family posing in their the wagon that served as their home and transportation during thieir homesteading journey.

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