Ronald Reagan 40th President, 1981-1989

Birthplace, Tampico, Illinois
Ronald Reagan was born in a small apartment above the Pitney General Store on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois. When his father, John Edward Reagan, a shoe salesman with “a weakness” for whiskey, first saw his bawling new-born son, he commented: “For such a little bit of a fat Dutchman, he makes a hell of a lot of noise, doesn’t he.” Thus, Reagan got the nickname “Dutch.”

John Reagan, who barely had a grade-school education, was a wonderfully gregarious parent who dearly loved Ronald and his older brother, Neil “Moon” Reagan. The elder Reagan tried hard to earn a living but failed generally because of his alcoholism. In 1920, the family finally settled in Dixon, Illinois. John Reagan’s luck changed in the 1930s when, as a liberal Democrat and active supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt, he became the Dixon director of the Works Progress Administration, a federal agency that operated to put Americans back to work during the Great Depression. The elder Reagan would not tolerate bigotry or intolerance of any kind from any one. He refused to let his children see the film Birth of a Nation, for example, because it glorified the Ku Klux Klan. He once angrily stormed out of a hotel when he learned that it discriminated against Jews.

Ronald’s mother, Nelle Wilson Reagan, taught her sons to understand that alcoholism was a disease and that they should not blame their father for it. Although a Protestant, she had married John in a Catholic ceremony and spent the rest of her life helping him and others less fortunate in health than herself. She visited prisoners, the inmates of poor houses, and hospital patients; she also organized drama recitals, some of which featured her sons, and worked as a salesclerk and seamstress in the 1930s. John died in 1941 and Nelle Reagan lived until 1962.

Reagan’s birthplace was built in 1895 by Fred Harvey Seymour and later known as the Graham building. The upstairs apartment was rented by Jack Reagan in September 1906. Both Reagan sons were born there. The downstairs was a bakery and restaurant. The First National Bank moved into the downstairs in 1919 and stockholders of the First National Bank purchased the building in 1920. Assets were sold to Tampico State Bank in 1931. R.F. Woods was made trustee. In 1948 he became sole owner of the building. R.S. Woods purchased the building from his father’s estate in 1956. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Nicely purchased the building in 1968. The Reagans moved from this apartment in 1911 to another home in Tampico. The family left Tampico in 1920 and moved to nearby Dixon, Illinois.

Boyhood Home, Dixon, Illinois
On December 6, 1920, the Reagan family moved to Dixon into this house at 816 South Hennepin. Ronald was 9 and his brother, Neil, was 12. The town of Dixon afforded the family a rich community life. Ronald Reagan was able to take advantage of the many offerings of the community- the Dixon library, the First Christian Church, the Dixon YMCA and the myriad of activities provided by his school life. Dixon, as one of the oldest riverfront towns in Illinois, had the degree of economic development and stability that fostered such community life. The community resources of Dixon offset the financial limitations of the Reagan family in providing extracurricular activities for both Ron and Neil. President Reagan and his brother Neil shared one of the three upstairs bedrooms. Their parents, Jack and Nelle, shared another room; the third was used as a sewing room for Mrs. Reagan who supplemented the family’s income by doing mending. The kitchen of the Reagan home was typical of that era, as shown here, equipped with a top loading icebox, a gas stove, and a pantry. In addition to the kitchen, the downstairs of the house had a sitting room, a parlor and a dining room.

Family activity extended beyond the house to both the barn and the yard. The Reagan brothers raised rabbits in the barn. The family maintained a large barn just north of the barn. Both Ronald and Neil or “Dutch” and “Moon” as they were known in Dixon spent many hours playing football on the side yard with their friends. During his formative years in Dixon, Reagan developed many skills through the activities in which he participated that fostered the growth of his talents, his personality, and character during later adult years. Having become an able swimmer, Reagan worked as lifeguard at Dixon’s magnificent Lowell Park. Utilizing his creative abilities, President Reagan served as Art Director of his 1928 yearbook.

The restoration of the home and reconstruction of the barn to its 1920 condition was completed, and the house furnished with furniture typical of the period, in time for President Reagan’s birthday visit on February 6, 1984. The lot on which the house stands was originally owned by Father John Nixon, founder of Dixon. The house was originally built in 1891. From 1920-1923, Ronald Reagan attended the South Side school, later known as the south Central School. Currently under renovation, the school will be the home of the Dixon Historic Center. The Center, featuring displays that depict the life of President Reagan, will open at a future date yet to be announced.

Library & Museum, Simi Valley, California
The Ronald Reagan Library is one of nine Presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Like the other libraries, it was built with private funds and then donated to the United States, to be operated thereafter by the government.

The library’s purpose is to collect, preserve, and make available to the public the historical materials that tell the story of the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The White House materials of President and Mrs. Reagan and their staffs form the core of the library’s resources.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum Bookstore covers 153,000 square feet on 100 acres. The library’s holdings include more than 50 million pages of documents, 1.5 million photo graphs and 75,000 gifts.

The museum also includes an exact replica of the Oval Office. Other highlights include a brilliantly graffitied section of the Berlin Wall, a Cossack saddle from Mikhail Gorbachev, a nuclear missile the First Lady’s Gallery and memorabilia such as movie posters and jelly bean jars.

The library’s four theaters screen videos tracing Reagan’s life from his small town roots through his eight years as president.

The Library Museum and Bookstore also features American history exhibits. The Presidential Library & Museum Bookstore is part of the main Library & Museum in Simi Valley, California. Dedicated by five American presidents on November 4, 1991 this facility is much more than a ‘library’ in the conventional sense. This bronzed Presidential Seal, for example, designates a peaceful knoll where the future burial sites will be situated for the president and first lady.

Several hundred researchers visit Simi Valley each year to take advantage of the Library’s extensive archival holdings. There are nearly 50 million pages of documentation. There are more than 1.5 million photographs. There are large amounts of film and video tape available here. Since Opening Day over 800,000 Americans have toured the Library & Museum.

You are invited to begin your visit to the world famous Ronald W. Reagan Library & Museum by touring the online exhibit, here at the Library Lobby. This famous Library & Museum has many exhibits. There are volunteer docents available to explain exhibits and answer questions.