David Ross Locke


David Ross Locke was born in Vestal, New York, September 20, 1833. He grew up in poverty and had little chance to gain a formal education. He struggled till he was thirty to support his family, working in the newspaper business. [John Killits, Toledo and Lucas, Ohio, 1623-1923, vol. 2 (Toledo: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1923): p.491]. Locke was a traveling printer and editor who operated newspapers in Plymouth, Mansfield, Bucyrus, and Findlay. While at Findlay, Ohio, he started writing the Nasby letters. [History of the Blade. (The Blade: A booklet distributed that gives a chronological history of the newspaper.)] The first one was printed on March 21, 1861 in the Findlay Jeffersonian. These letters were political satirical jabs at the pro-Southern sentiment in the North. [Morgan Barclay and Charles N. Glaab, Toledo: Gateway to the Great Lakes (Tulsa: Continental Heritage Press, Inc., 1982): p.87].

The attention Locke gained from the Nasby Letters landed him a position working for the Toledo Blade. In 1876 he purchased a controlling interest and became president of this Northwest Ohio newspaper. He was an editor, writer and publicist. The Toledo Blade became financially sound under this new management. Locke built up the weekly edition by adding sections for farmers, young people, and women, as well as poetry and fiction sections. He established a Veterans of the Union Army column so people could locate former comrades and made the weekly paper a review of current news in the world. (History of the Blade). Lockes Weekly Blade became one of the nation's most influential publications, especially in small towns and rura


l areas. Besides The Blade, the company published Lockes Monthly and the American Farm Journal. (Killits, p.483).

Locke is most known for the fictional name and character he created and wrote under, "Petroleum Vesuvius Nasby." Nasby, a character that one could describe as an ignorant bigot, represented everything David Locke was against. Locke, a reformist, fought for the rights of women, African-Americans, and labor. He represented these ideals through Nasby which he "effectively used to satirize racial prejudice and corruption during and after the Civil War." (Barclay and Glaab, p.86).

It was these Nasby letters that enabled Locke to influence the people of the North from 1850 until the close of the Civil War. Through his satirical writings, he became a factor in shaping opinions during this because of the wide circulation of the Weekly Blade. Each paper was believed to have been examined by three to five persons, and it is estimated that the Weekly Blade served almost a million Americans. Circulation grew quickly. In 1868 12,000 copies were sold. This soared to 200,000 in 1884. (History of the Blade).


President Lincoln particularly appreciated these letters that he thought "stirred people to right thinking and decisive action." (Killits, p.491). Lincoln declared that Mr. Locke's letters did much to solidify Union sentiment during the war and sent a letter to Locke thanking him for his services. Locke was offered political appointments by both Lincoln and Grant, but he declined. (History of the Blade).

David Locke helped the Toledo Blade to become a nationally known publication. Under his effective editorial guidance, the weekly edition of the Blade was read by Americans from coast to coast and was a precursor of the national weekly news magazine. For the next twenty years, he built himself a reputation as a leading newsman, and a large personal fortune as well. He was a nationally recognized and popular public lecturer. (Ibid).

The last letter of Petroleum V. Nasby was dated December 26, 1887. (Barclay and Glaab, 87.) Upon the death of David Ross Locke in 1888 Robinson Locke, David Locke's son, took charge of the Blade. He held this office for about twenty-five years, devoted more attention to the daily edition of the Blade which made it a distinguished paper in Toledo and the surrounding area. The Weekly Blade was discontinued on October 9, 1924. (History of the Blade).
image: David Ross Locke, The Locke Monument

Robinson Locke

Robinson Locke was born in Plymouth, Ohio, March 15, 1856. Robinsons father, David Ross Locke, was the nationally known writer who wrote under the name of Petroleum V. Nasby. Robinson worked for his father as a reporter at the Blade, and in 1888, upon the death of his father, Robinson Locke took charge of the newspaper. He found that the weekly edition of the Blade had a wide national circulation, but the daily edition of the Blade only had influence in the community it served. When he became president of the company and editor of the paper, Locke sought to reverse this order. Throughout the years the daily edition prospered and its scope of influence gradually increased. (The Toledo Blade, 22 June 1936).

Robinson Locke was able to become a successful newspaper owner as he knew the fundamentals of the work. His father gave ideas and policies which had been broadened by their extensive travels together. When Robinson, also known as Bob by his close friends, accompanied his father to Europe early in 1881, he aided him in writing the "Nasby in Exile" articles. (Ibid).

In the fall of 1881 Robinson returned to Europe to study German, French, and music. He and his father again toured the continent together. Robinson Locke wrote extensively on his travels. His work, "Days and Nights in Old Japan," was among his most regarded efforts and appeared in the Blade. (Ibid).

Locke came home in 1883. Shortly after his arrival, he received an appointment as United States consul to Newcastle-on-Tyne by President Arthur. This position was terminated in 1885 when President Cleveland assumed office. (Ibid).

Locke was always interested in theater and was a close student of ancient and modern drama. For twenty-five years he wrote pieces concerning the stage and actors. His critiques, which appeared in the Blade, were influential. His fluent writing style appealed to the casual reader as well as the thoughtful student. (Ibid., 21 April 1920).

In addition, he owned a biographical library of actors and actresses from America and England. In fact, his walls in the old Blade building on Jefferson Avenue and Superior Street were covered with autographed portraits of them. He assembled a collection of theatrical materials with every prominent member of the profession, and each of these people had from one to eight bound volumes. This great collection was bequeathed by Mr. Locke to the New York Public Library where it is now made accessible. (Ibid., 22 June 1936).

On July 15, 1886, Robinson Locke married Kate King of Toledo. She died eight years later on January 6, 1894. (Ibid., 21 April 1920). In 1909 Robinson Locke married Mabel Dunham. She was born in Boston and moved to Toledo after they married. She lived here until she moved back to New York in 1924. As Mabel Dixey, Mrs. Locke had a brief career as an actress before her marriage. She passed away in February, 1968. (Ibid., 12 February 1968).

Robinson Locke, an active leader in civic affairs in Toledo, died April 20, 1920. Not only was he one of the early benefactors of the Toledo Public Library and a member of the school board, he was one of the incorporators of the Toledo Museum of Art. Locke was the first vice-president of the board of trustees of this institution from 1901 to 1911. Furthermore, he was one of the founders of the Civic Music League, a member of the National Geographical Society and played a role in founding the Northwestern Ohio Historical Society in which he was a member. (Ibid., 21 April 1920).


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