Passed in 1862, the Homestead Act was an important piece of legislation that gave away 160 acres of land in the Western United States to any individual willing to settle, cultivate, and occupy the land for a period of 5 years. Social scientists have examined the various impacts of the act extensively, but not in terms of its original aims. Many of those who fought for passage of the act rested their case on the moral claim that all persons have an equal right to the soil. This paper examines the extent to which the Homestead Act actually lived up to this moral ideal. We ask: did the Homestead Act lead to greater equality in the ownership of land? We find that the act did achieve greater equality in the short run but, in the long run, this equality proved fleeting, disappearing within 100 years of the act’s passage.