The Tampico Tornado had it under "Local News" on Feb. 10, 1911:
"John Reagan has been calling 37 inches a yard and giving 17 ounces for a pound this week at Pitney's store he has been feeling so jubilant over the arrival of a 10-pound boy Monday . . ."
The following week, "Will Reagan of Fulton was over here Wednesday to visit his brother John and also see that fine, new nephew."
The kid's name was Ronald.
The 40th president of the United States was born in the wake of a blizzard that left a foot of snow on Tampico, Ill., "a little country town with the usual Civil War cannon and pyramided cannon balls in a lush green park," halfway between Walnut and Prophetstown about 40 miles east of Moline.
That's Ronald Reagan's own description of the village (pop. 849) where he was born, though he really considers nearby Dixon, where he moved at age 9, as his home town.
Not much seemed to happen in Tampico. His was the only birth reported for the week. The lead item in the Tornado was about the formation of a Young Men's Association at the Woodmen hall. There was also a notice from the tax collector:
"I have the tax books now at Seymour's store where you can call and pay your taxes. Get them settled and have it off your mind."
And this: "Congress has appropriated $137,000 for the Hennepin canal in the River and Harbor budget. Captain Wheeler, of Sterling, who has charge of the canal at this point, says that he has no knowledge of what this amount is for . . . "
The paper is full of ads for laxatives, cattle auctions and farms ("240 acres in Hume Township, Whiteside County, at $150 per acre"), cookstoves for $34.75, shoes for $3 to $4 and "a good second-hand surrey."
"Maybe some time they will invent a padded aeroplane," comments the Tornado editor, "which will not rise more than ten feet from the ground. Then the careful man will become interested."
Monday, Feb. 6, 1911: The America into which Ronald Reagan was born seems peaceful, sleepy, maybe even idyllic to us today. William Howard Taft was president, and there were 46 states, and the big story in the eastern papers was that Francisco Madero's insurgents were attacking Juarez, Mexico, and defending General Orozco was pledging the safety of American property there.
The entire city of Havana turned out to see J.A.D. McCurdy fly his aeroplane around the Morro lighthouse. He had just won $5,000 for his daring flight from Key West to Havana.
In Washington, the Chiperfield Commission reported on a $250 million land grab in Illinois, where private corporations had taken over some recently drained acreage. Rep. Champ Clark of Missouri, the speaker-elect, said in a speech that "the world is growing better." And Sarah Bernhardt, in town to emote at the new National Theatre as Camille, Joan of Arc, Sappho and Tosca, told reporters that women shouldn't engage in politics.
"They possibly might be allowed to vote," she said, "but as for holding office -- never!"
Over at the National Geographic Society, officers were defending Captain Peary's claim to have discovered the North Pole, angrily refuting the charges of Frederick Cook in New York.
Local clergy were urging a curfew "to keep young girls and boys off the streets after nightfall," and in Baltimore, St. Ignatius Church announced a public blessing of babies to protest what it called "race suicide," or birth control.
A veteran of Antietam and Bull Run died at age 68. The captain of Abraham Lincoln's presidential yacht died at age 74. The new Commerce Court, just voted into existence, opened for business. Editorials deplored the spread of bubonic plague in China, India, Siam and Hawaii and praised the innovative idea of using planes on the Mexican border for "observations of the movements of troops."
A "negro driver" named John Thomas stopped a runaway carriage as its team of horses, panicked by a car, bolted from Pennsylvania and 18th all the way up to Florida and 13th.
You could buy a Stoddart-Dayton car for $1,175, a Bergdoll 30 for $1,500. Or an Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac or Detroit Electric. They wouldn't have self-starters, though, not for another year.
"Gentleman wishes expert instruction on an adding machine," read one of the free classified ads in The Washington Post. Woodward & Lothrop offered French gowns and chemises at $1.29 to $2.95, and men's suits cost $6.75 to $20. The house at 1810 Kalorama, 12 rooms and 3 baths, was up for rent at $55.50 a month.
"Decide on Coke," read a large ad. "40 Bushels Delivered. $3.20. Washington Gas Light Co."
1911 . . . Babe Ruth was 16 years old, still playing sandlot ball. Charlie Chaplin had yet to make his first movie. Lillian Gish was 15 and the film that would make her famous, "Birth of a Nation," was three years in the future. Einstein had come out with his theory of relativity six years earlier, the Boy Scouts of America had just been launched, and cellophane was about to be invented. Charles Lindbergh was 9 years old.
Down through the centuries, it seems, Feb. 6 has been a quiet, unobtrusive day on our planet. Anne, the last Stuart queen of England, was born then, in 1665, and St. Dorothy, virgin martyr, in 304, and St. Mel, bishop of Ardagh, in 488. Charles II of England died on that date in 1685 of apoplexy or possibly of poisoned chocolate.
Happy birthday, Mr. Reagan. You're a long way from Tampico. So are we all.