50 State Quarters
Do you remember a few years ago the U.S. Mint released a series of quarters, with a unique design for each one of the states? It became a craze, raising awareness of coin collecting and the mint and in general. My great-aunt collected a complete set from both the Denver and Philadelphia mints for each grandchild. (A sample of those of interest to Laura Ingalls Wilder fans were Vermont gathering maple syrup, the Braille on the Alabama Helen Keller design, and the Iowa one-room school.)
America the Beautiful Quarters
Buoyed by the success of the program the U.S. Mint launched others including the Westward Journey Nickels, the Lincoln Pennies, the Presidential Dollars, and the Native American Dollars. None of these has seemed to catch the same fire in the public’s imagination. The one they had the most hope for was a near duplicate of the 50 State program, where each state would again get a designated quarter design, but this time it had to involve a National Park in the state. It’s called the America the Beautiful Quarters Program. The releases started in 2010 and are scheduled to continue until 2021.
Homestead National Monument
The Homestead Act, otherwise known as Pa’s bet with the government, is well known to Laura fans. It’s one of the many acts long sought by the Whig/Republican Party to help small farmers and businessmen that had been blocked by the pro-Slavery faction. Once this faction pulled out of the government through succession they were able to get many of these initiatives through including homesteading, land grant colleges, and various other reforms that have been hitting their 150 anniversaries along with Civil War events in the last few years.
What is now the Homestead National Monument was the location for the very first application submitted for the Homestead Act on January 1st, 1863. Daniel Freeman filed it as soon as the application system opened. The Homestead Act dispersed land from Florida to Alaska. The law remained in effect for the first three quarters of the twentieth century and it was used until 1986 when it was officially repealed by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act which had been passed 10 years before. Around two million individuals used the Homestead Act to get a farm from Uncle Sam. Homesteading was involved in gaining title to approximately 270-285 million acres or about eight percent of all the land in the United States. In 2001 the Homestead National Monument set out to find who was the very last homesteader. They discovered that Kenneth Deardorff filed a homestead claim on 80 acres of land on the Stony River in southwestern Alaska in 1974 and was granted a patent in May 1988, the very last one granted for a homestead. Learn more about Deardorff here:
The idea of preserving the Freeman Homestead as a monument to the act itself and all homesteaders began life as early as 1909. In 1925 a Nebraska Senator joined the fight and finally in 1936 a law was passed to create the Homestead National Monument. In 1971 and additional law added land and additional buildings related to homesteading to the site and it remains active today.
The Homestead National Monument has been a strong advocate of getting digital preservation and access copies made of the Homestead records help by the National Archives (NARA). Additionally they have compiled and promote a list of famous homesteaders, including Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Learn more about the history of the Homestead National Monument:
Learn more about Homestead Act History:
Find them on Facebook:
Homestead Images Featured
Nebraska’s chosen park was Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, NE. It is set to release in early 2015, but it’s a long trip from plan to coin and they just released a series of potential designs. The proposed quarter designs feature many things familiar to Laura fans:
The committee’s recommendation of which to select features a log cabin, ears of corn, and a hand pump. The committee also recommended replacing the stars with the words Free Land that were used in a different design.
Read more about the background of the Quarter here:
Listen to a Nebraska news story about the design:
Reaction to the design:
The images used on the contending designs include cabins, plows, chopping wood, hanging wash, a cultivator, a cradle (harvesting tool), a team of oxen, a team of horses and the phrase Free Land which is of course, also the title of one of Rose Wilder Lane’s book. There is still time to make commentary on which quarter design you would prefer and I think no matter which design is ultimately chosen, it’s one that Laura fans will want to collect.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.