From Hollywood acting to leading a nation, Ronald Reagan’s celebrated life and career were undoubtedly shaped by the place he called home.
Ronald Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in the small town of Tampico, Illinois to John and Nelle Reagan. Throughout his early childhood, Reagan grew up in several Illinois towns whilst his salesman father moved jobs, before finally settling in Dixon, Illinois in 1920.
Find out below where Ronald Reagan grew up for much of his early life and how they defined his childhood.
Five Towns, Nine Years
Born in 1911 in Tampico, Reagan’s childhood began with his parents, John and Nelle, and older brother Neil, in a second-floor apartment. John Reagan (known to everyone as Jack) was a shoe salesman, whilst Nelle was a homemaker.
From 1913 at just the age of two, Reagan and his family moved to Chicago, where Jack had taken up a new sales job. Reagan had his first experience of urban life here.
Around two years later, the family moved again to Galesburg where Jack was offered another job. As a contrast to the hustle and bustle of Chicago, Reagan now enjoyed the peaceful countryside surroundings of Galesburg.
Whilst here, at the age of 5, Reagan taught himself to read and soon discovered that he could memorize books easily. When WWI began, Reagan enjoyed watching the troops come and go on the trains.
At the end of first grade, the next stop for the family was Monmouth, where Reagan witnessed Armistice Day – the celebration of the end of WWI. Not long after, Jack took back his old job and the family moved back to Tampico once again.
The Reagans finally settled in Dixon in 1920, where Jack opened his own shoe store.
These first few years were difficult for Reagan. The moves had made him introverted and cautious about making friendships that would surely have to end before the next move. It wasn’t until the family reached Dixon, where Reagan finally felt at home.
Growing Up In Dixon
At 9 years old, Reagan spent the rest of his childhood years in Dixon, the place he referred to as his hometown. Take a look around his boyhood home below.
As he got older, Reagan began to notice his father’s struggle with alcohol, which often would frustrate Reagan and his brother. Despite this, Reagan loved his family and understood the importance and purpose of family and community.
Dixon also taught Reagan about hard work, opportunity, and the importance of freedom, peace, and security to all Americans. This dream would continue to inspire Reagan throughout his life.
After being motivated by his mother and brother’s community readings and performances on stage, Reagan made his first theatrical debut in Dixon. Despite being shy and insecure, the tremendous response from the audience is thought to have been a life-changing moment for young Reagan.
Upon joining Dixon High School in 1924, Reagan was already a star athlete and had a passion for football. Although he did not make the team as a freshman due to his smaller physique, he later became captain of the football team after taking a summer job building and renovating homes in Dixon.
His later high school years also saw him become captain of the swim team, as well as president of the drama club. In his senior year, Reagan had his first taste of leadership when he was elected as Student Body President.
Midwest to West Coast
After graduating from Eureka College and landing his first job as a sports broadcaster, Reagan finally left Dixon for a work trip to California in 1934. It was here where Reagan would soon break into the Hollywood film industry.
Despite living in several towns in his early years, it is clear that Reagan truly began to make his mark in his boyhood hometown, Dixon. From his sporting achievements to his first taste of hard work and reward, it was here where Reagan’s life began to flourish.