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On this day: May 20

POSTED: 02:26 PM PDT May 17, 2013    UPDATED: 11:00 PM PDT May 19, 2013 

Vasco da Gama arrives in India, Christopher Columbus dies, Norman Rockwell makes his Saturday Evening Post cover debut, HIV is discovered, and "Cheers" airs its series finale, all on this day.

OTD May 20 - Homestead Act
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Public domain

1862: President Abraham Lincoln signs the Homestead Act into law. The act stated that anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government and was 21 or older, or the head of a family, could file an application to claim a federal land grant of up to 160 acres. The occupant had to reside on the land for five years and show evidence of having made improvements before  a deed would be granted. Pictured is the certificate of the first homestead granted under the act, given to Daniel Freeman in Beatrice, Neb.

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