Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
Scope and Content
The Robinson Locke Collection was acquired by the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in 1958. Additional items associated with David Ross Locke were donated by Farley Katz in 2001.
Born in Plymouth, Ohio, in 1856, Robinson Locke was the eldest of David Ross and Martha (Bodine) Locke’s three sons. He graduated from the Toledo High School with honors in 1873. The elder Locke exposed his son to the printer’s trade in an effort to groom him to eventually take over the management of his newspaper, the Toledo Blade. Young Locke worked as the paper’s market reporter, telegraph editor, and finally city editor. In the spring of 1881, Locke left the United States to study languages in Europe. That summer, he and his father toured Europe, and young Locke wrote the descriptive portions of his father’s travel book, the first volume of Nasby in Exile. Locke studied in Zurich and spent the following year traveling throughout southern Europe.
President Chester Arthur appointed Robinson Locke United States Consul at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. In 1885, he resigned the post and returned to Toledo to manage the Blade. He married Mary King, daughter of Toledo grain dealer C. A. King. Following his father’s death in February 1888, young Locke became president of the company and editor of both the daily and weekly editions of the Blade. Locke was active in the formation and support of many of Toledo’s civic institutions and organizations, particularly those concerned with the arts. Among the many institutions he supported financially were the Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo Symphony, Freemasonry, Young Men’s Christian Association, and the Young Women’s Christian Association.
Robinson Locke lacked the entrepreneurial drive of his father but possessed his love of the theater. Although competent as a journalist and businessman, Robinson Locke devoted an ever-increasing amount of time to his interest in the theater. He spent lengthy periods in New York attending performances and meeting critics, actors, and producers. During the 1890's, Locke attended theatrical performances in Toledo. The city’s geographic location made it a natural stopping-off point for touring companies traveling between New York and Chicago. With the opening of the Valentine Theater in 1895, Locke combined his passion for the theater with his journalistic skills to become a drama critic known in theatrical circles for fairness and high standards. When Locke married a second time, he, not surprisingly, chose an accomplished actress for his wife: Mabel Dunham Dixey of Younkers, New York.
Locke’s passion for the theater also found expression in collecting. His "archives" of American theatrical material eventually grew to include more than two million clippings and several thousand photographs. After Robinson Locke’s death in 1920, the New York Public Library acquired Locke’s unique and extensive collection of theater materials.
Robinson Locke’s father, David Ross Locke, journalist, political satirist and creator of the "Petroleum Vesuvius Nasby" of Civil War fame, was born in Vestal, Broome County, New York, in 1833, the youngest son of Nathaniel Reed and Hester (Ross) Locke. His journalism career began at the age of ten when he undertook a seven-year apprenticeship to the publisher of the Courtland, New York Democrat. From 1850 to 1852 Locke traveled throughout the country as a journeyman printer. His travels in the South reinforced the strong anti-slavery sentiments advocated by his father. In 1852, he formed a partnership with James G. Robinson and the two traveled "west" to Plymouth, Ohio, where they revived the Plymouth Advertiser. Two years later, they sold the Advertiser and joined forces with Roeliff Brinkerhoff and purchased the Mansfield, Ohio, Herald. In 1856, he and his partner purchased controlling interest in the Bucyrus, Ohio, Journal. There Locke married Martha H. Bodine and they became the parents of three sons: Robinson, Charles, and Edmund.
By 1861, Locke had purchased the Hancock Jeffersonian at Findlay, Ohio. It was in the columns of the Jeffersonian that the famous "Nasby Letters" gained national popularity, attracting the attention of President Abraham Lincoln, who became one of Locke’s most unreserved admirers. The widely-read Nasby Letters helped solidify northern public opinion against the South. Using quaint humor and biting satire, Locke’s Nasby voiced the extreme view of the southern position. After the war, Ulysses S. Grant’s Secretary of the Treasury George S. Boutwell summed up the influence of Locke’s fictitious Petroleum Vesuvius Nasby when he said "the North had won the war by three forces, the Army, the Navy, and the Nasby Papers."
Shortly after the war, Locke took editorial control of the Toledo, Ohio, Blade and within a few years he owned a controlling financial interest. In addition to the daily, he began a weekly family edition subtitled "Nasby’s Paper," and boosted the paper’s national reputation with a circulation of 200,000. Locke moved to New York in 1871 and became the managing editor of the New York Evening Mail and a member of the advertising agency of Bates & Locke. He returned to Toledo and took an active role in the civic and economic life of Toledo, Ohio, serving as alderman, a director of the Northern National Bank of Toledo, and president of the Toledo Art Association. He continued the Nasby Letters until a few months before his death in February of 1888. At his death, Locke’s estate was valued at nearly a million dollars.
Creative and versatile, Locke shared the popularity of Mark Twain and Josh Billings on the American lecture circuit. He wrote numerous hymns, books, verse, pamphlets, and a play that he successfully produced. Possessing similar political views, Locke and political cartoonist Thomas Nast joined forces. Nast illustrated several of Locke’s books, creating the visual image of Nasby.
Scope and Content
The Robinson Locke Collection is comprised largely of correspondence, documents, newspaper articles, photographs, invitations, and memorabilia related to Robinson Locke’s activities as the editor of the Toledo Blade, U. S. Consul in England, drama critic, thirty-third degree Mason, bank director, and officer or trustee of the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Public Library, and Toledo Symphony Orchestra.
While the collection is dominated by the younger Locke’s material, it contains numerous papers of David Ross Locke, including correspondence, (1851 - 1887), business papers, photographs, newspaper clippings, and a literary manuscript. Perhaps most valuable in understanding the senior Locke’s creative talents, journalistic skills, and business abilities are an undated letter from David Ross Locke’s father Nathaniel regarding his early hardships; an 1851 letter describing the period in Locke’s life when he lectured under the sponsorship of the Sons of Temperance; his commission as second lieutenant in the 65th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the outbreak of the Civil War; a letter from Locke to his nine-year-old son Robinson; two letters to Locke from cartoonist Thomas Nast regarding their proposed collaboration; an eight-page "Nasby" manuscript; Locke’s assets in 1871; letters to his sons offering advice regarding their futures; and materials associated with the production of Locke’s stage play "Widow Bedott."
The collection dates from 1851 to 1920 with the bulk of the materials arranged chronologically in six scrapbooks. The contents of the scrapbooks date from the fall of 1881 when Robinson Locke traveled and studied in Europe to 1916. Approximately a dozen letters from David Ross Locke to son Robinson; two manuscripts of the elder Locke’s poems; writings and corrected galleys; and news of family, social events, and business conditions in Toledo and Ohio make up some of the 3000 items mounted in the scrapbooks. Robinson Locke’s correspondence with his parents includes descriptions of European cities, including London, Paris, Rome, Venice, and Capri, the status of his studies, and personal activities.
Photographs, invitations to social and professional functions, news clippings, business and political correspondence, particularly with Ohio Republican Party politicians, make up a portion of the mounted items in the 1888 to 1893 scrapbook and the 1894 to 1904 scrapbook. Subsequent scrapbooks reveal Robinson Locke’s increasing interest in the theater. Programs; clippings of drama reviews by Locke (under the name of "Rodney Lee"); and correspondence with playwrights, actors, drama and literary critics dominate the scrapbooks after 1894. The numbered scrapbooks contain the following items:
2. Scrapbook: 1881 - 1887 (192 pp.)
Albumen photographs, news articles, particularly those from the Toledo Blade, social and military invitations, correspondence of David Ross Locke, correspondence of Robinson Locke while studying in and touring Europe.
3. Scrapbook: 1888 - 1893 (325 pp.)
Obituaries, reminiscences, poems, unpublished sketches of David Ross Locke, and letters of sympathy on the occasion of his death; 1888 Republican Convention memorabilia, invitations to Toledo social and civic functions; Robinson Locke’s tour of Japan and the 1893 Blade articles entitled "Days and Nights in Japan;" letters of appreciation from civic organizations for monetary contributions; photographs.
4 .Scrapbook 1894 - 1904 (270 pp.)
Business correspondence; political correspondence, including letters from William McKinley, Jr., Joseph Foraker, and Marc Hanna about Ohio Republican Party activities; Toledo Symphony Orchestra programs; Toledo Art Museum catalogues; Toledo Public Library programs, articles, and correspondence; Ohio Library Association publications; play reviews by Locke under the name "Rodney Lee"; correspondence with playwrights; photographs.
5. Scrapbook 1905 - 1908 (349 pp.)
Correspondence with playwrights, actors, drama and literary critics, and owners of theater companies; clippings of reviews by Locke under the name "Rodney Lee"; political correspondence; photographs.
6. Scrapbook 1909 - 1911 (353 pp.)
Certificate, invitation, announcements, articles about, and photographs of Robinson Locke’s marriage to actress Mabel Dunham Dixey; Council of Deliberation, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry correspondence; programs, invitations, announcements of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration; obituary and images of Laura Bodine Lauck, maternal aunt of Robinson Locke; photographs of Mabel Dixey Locke and family, Blade Building, street scenes, interior and exterior views of unidentified residence, Theodore Roosevelt on Bright Angel trail (1911); correspondence with playwrights; drama reviews by Robinson Locke; articles and correspondence about the 1911 fire at the Blade building and Robinson Locke’s extensive theatrical collection; programs and memorabilia regarding the Toledo Shakespeare Association.
7. Scrapbook 1912 - 1916 (361 pp.)
Programs and correspondence from Knights Templar of Ohio, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Toledo Shakespeare Association, Orpheus Club, Committee for the Celebration of the Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie, National Institute of Arts and Letters, National Institute of Social Sciences, Friars Club, American Universities Club of London, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Newsboys Association, and Young Men’s and Young Women’s Christian Association; theatrical performance reviews by Robinson Locke; correspondence of theater managers, owners, directors of theatrical performances; photographs of Robinson Locke and members of the Freemasonry 1912 convention; and Christmas cards.
3 1/4 linear ft.
Index to correspondence and other materials
ADAMS, W. E. to Robinson Locke - May 9, 1888. 2p. L.S
ADAMS, W. E. to (Robinson) Locke - Mch. 21, 1893. 3p. A.L.S.
ASHLEY, J. M. to (Robinson) Locke - Nov 18, 1891, "Personal & Private" 4p. A.L.S.
BILLINGS, Joseph - Photograph with M. Twain & D.R. Locke - "The American Humorists".
Agreement, Feb 1, 1879. 30. Agreement, signed, Mch. 4, 1880. 2p.
Transfer of Contract - Mch. 24, 1880. 1p. A.N.S. Also see Press Notices.
CALLARD, H. H. to Robinson Locke, Dec 11, 1891. 2p. A.L.S.
CAMP, to David dated Brooklyn, N.Y. n.d. 4p. A.L.S.
EGTINGE, Rose to "Dear Sir" dtd N.Y.C. Sept. 29, 1888. 3p. A.L.S.
EGTINGE, Rose to "Dear Sir" dtd N.Y.C. Oct. 18, 1888. 4p. A.L.S.
HAVERLY, J. H. to D.R. Locke dtd Mch. 24, 1880. N.Y. Receipt, signed.
HAYS, Frank W. to D.R. Locke dtd Albany, Dec. 4, 1877. 1p. A.L.S.
(On verso letter of D.R. Locke to Robinson Locke Dec. 8, 1877)
HOPLEY, John to Robinson Locke dtd Bycyrus, O., Feb. 27, 1888. 3p. A.L.S.; with env.
JONES, Evan R. to Robinson Locke dtd U.S. Consulate, Jly. 8, 1885 4p. A.L.
KNABENSHUE, Samuel S. to Robinson Locke dtd Toledo, O., Aug. 16, 1892. 2p. A.L.S.
LOCKE, Mrs. David R.
Letters of Robinson Locke to his mother, Mrs. David R. Locke:
1879, Aug. 3. 18 p. A.L.S.
1881, Jly. 27, 4 p. A.L.S.; Aug, 4p. A.L.S.; Aug.15, 4p. A.L.S.
Aug. 20, 4p. A.L.S.; Aug. 26, 4p. A.L.S.; Aug 28, 4p. A.L.S.
Sept. 4, 4p. A.L.S.; Sept. 6, 4p. A.L.S.; Sept. 12, 6p. A.L.S.
Sept. 15, 4p. A.L.S.; Sept. 18, 4p. A.L.S.; Sept. 29, 4p. A.L.S.
1885, Feb. 16, 4p. A.L.S.; Jne. 23, 4p. A.L.S.; Jly. 23, 4p. A.L.S.
Jly. 28, 4p. A.L.S.; Jly. 28, 4p. A.L.S.
LOCKE, David R.
185, Jan. 26 to James & Ruth dtd Corning, N.Y. 3P. A.L.S. (With 1860, Mch. 28 Ruth to D.R.
Locke on verso).
1864, Nov. 30 to Robinson Locke dtd Bellefontaine, O., 2p. A.L.S. with env.
1866, Jan. 4 to Robinson Locke dtd Toledo, O., 2p. A.L.S.
1866, Jan 21 to Robinson Locke dtd Toledo, O., 2p. A.L.S.
1871, Feb. 9 to E.D. Peck dtd Athol, Mass " Strictly Confidential" 2p. A.L.S. with 2p. A.L.S. H. H.
Callard to Robinson Locke, Dec. 11, 1891.
1876, Nov 18 to Edmund Locke dtd N.Y. 2p. Typed.
1873, May 14 to Robinson Locke dtd N.Y. 4p. A.L.S.; with 4p. Mss with env; with 11p. Mss of
1874, Apr. 27 to Robinson Locke dtd N.Y. 2p. A.L.S. with env.
1875, Apr. 15 Statement, 4p. Signed.
1875, Oct. 25 to Robinson Locke dtd N.Y. 2p. A.L.S.
(1876), Nov. 20 to Robinson Locke 2p. letter typed.
(1877, Dec. 8) to Robinson Locke 2p. letter typed.
1879, Dec. 7 to Robinson Locke 2p. typed with env.
1879, Feb. 1 Agreement between D.R. Locke & Neil Burgess. 3p.; Signed
Agreement dtd Mch. 4, 1880, 2p.
Press Notice, 4p. Prtd. (1879, Sept.)
Advertising Sheet, 4p. Prtd. Nov. 17, 1879.
n.d. - 8p. mss signed P[etroleum] V. N [asby].
n.d. - (1877) to Robinson Locke. 2p. A.L.S. with env.1868, Jan. 18 to E. P. Whipple, lp. A.L.S.
1884, Apr. 27 to E. F. Strickland, 1p. T.L.S.
Tin Type of Locke Family
Engraved portrait of D. R. Locke, autographed ( Aug. 3, 1882)
Photograph of Toledo Blade Building (2 copies) 1884
Photograph Nasby-Twain-Billings (American Humorists)
Photograph D. R. Locke in Toledo Blade Office.
Toledo Weekly Blade
16 p. 8 vo pamphlet wrappers, biographical material
LOCKE, David R.
Letters to D.R. Locke
n.d. Nathaniel R. Locke to D.R.L. 5p. A.L.S.
1860, Mch. 28, Ruth (Sister) to D.R.L. 1p.A.L.S. (on verso DRL to James & Ruth dtd Jan. 26,1851)
1861, Nov. 5, R. Mason Adj. Gen., Columbus, O. to DRL, Bucyrus, 1p. prtd. Appointment, signed.
1867, Mch. 23, Thomas Nast to D.R.L. dtd N.Y. 4p. A.L.S.
1867, May 20, Thomas Nast to D.R.L. dtd N.Y. 4p. A.L.S.
1877, Dec. 4, Frank W. Hays to D.R.L. dated Albany, 1p. A.L.S. (on verso David Locke to Robinson
Locke, Dec. 8, 1877)
1880, Mch. 24, Neil Burgess to D.R. Locke 1p. A.N.S.
1880, Mch. 24, Haverly, J. H. to D.R.L. dtd N.Y. Receipt, signed.
1876, Nov 18, David R. Locke to Edmund Locke. 2p. typed.
n.d. to David R. Locke, 5p. A.L.S.
1860, Mch. 28 to David R. Locke 1p. A.L.S. (on verso D.R.L. to James & Ruth Jan. 26, 1851)
To Ruth - Locke to James & Ruth, Jan 26, 1851
(1873, May 14) 7 p. Mss of R.L. ( See D.R. Locke to R.L. dtd May 14, 1873).
1879, Aug 3 to his mother dtd Duluth Minn. 18p. A.L.S.
1881, Jly. 27 to his mother dtd Geneva Switzerland, 4p. A.L.S.
1881, Aug. 2 to his mother dtd Geneva Switzerland, 4p. A.L.S.
1881, Aug. 15 to his mother dtd Mannheim, Germany, 4p. A.L.S.
1881, Aug. 20 to his mother dtd Mannheim, Germany, 4p. A.L.S.
1881, Aug. 26 to his mother dtd Antwerp. 4p. A.L.S.
1881, Aug. 28 to his mother dtd London. 4p. A.L.S.
1881, Sept. 4 to his mother dtd London. 4p. A.L.S.
1881, Sept. 6 to his mother dtd Birmingham, England. 4p. A.L.S.
1881, Sept. 12 to his mother dtd Edinburgh, 6p. A.L.S.
1881, Sept. 15 to his mother dtd Glasgow, 4p A.L.S.
1881, Sept. 18 to his mother dtd Belfort, 4p. A.L.S.
1881, Sept. 29 to his mother dtd Ireland, 4p. A.L.S.
1885, Feb. 16 to hid mother dtd England. 4p. A.L.S.
1885, Jne. 23 to his mother dtd England, 4p. A.L.S.
1885, Jly. 23 to his mother dtd Denmark, 4p. A.L.S.
1885, Jly. 28 to his mother dtd n.p. 4p. A.L.S.
1885, Jly. 30 to his mother dtd Norway, 4p. A.L.S.
TIN TYPE of Mr & Mrs. Robinson Locke with others - Aug. 3 1882.
Toledo Weekly Blade
Pamphlet 16p. Prtd. 8 vo. Wrappers. Biographical material of the Lockes.
Letters To Robinson Locke:
1864, Nov. 30 David R. Locke to R.L. dtd Bellefonaine, O. 2p. A.L.S. with env.
1866, Jan 4. David R. Locke to R.L. dtd Toledo, O. 2p. A.L.S.
1866, Jan.21 David R. Locke to R.L. dtd Toledo. 2p. A.L.S.
1873, May 14 David R. Locke to R.L. dtd N.Y. 4p. A.L.S. with 4p. Mss with env. with 11p. Mss of
1874, Apr. 27 David R. Locke to R.L. dtd N.Y. 2p. A.L.S. with env.
1875, Oct. 25 David R. Locke to R.L. dtd N.Y. 2p. A.L.S.
(1876) Nov 20 David R. Locke to R.L. 2p. typed
1877 n.d. David R. Locke to R.L. 2p. A.L.S.
(1877, Dec. 8) David R. Locke to R.L. 2p. typed.
(1879, Dec. 7) David R. Locke to R.L. 2p. typed letter with env.
1855, Jly. 8 Jones, Evan R. to R.L. dtd U.S. Consulate, 4p. A.L.S.
1885, Aug. 3 Smith, Jasper dtd Nottingham to R.L. 4p. A.L.S.
1888, Feb. 27 Hopley, John to R.L. dtd Bucyrus, 3p. A.L.S. with clipping
1888, May 9 Adams, W. E. to R.L. 2p. L.S.
1888, Sept. 29 Eytinge, Rose dtd N.Y.C. 3p. A.L.S.
1888, Oct. 18 Eytinege, Rose dtd N.Y.C. 4p. A.L.S.
1890, Sept. 6 Watterson, Helen to (R.L.) 2p. A.L.S.
1891, Nov. 18 Ashley, J.M. to (Robinson Locke) dtd N.Y. Personal & Priv. 4p. A.L.S. ( with D.R.L.
to E. D. Peck, Feb. 9, 1871)
1892, Feb. 18 Milan, Kate to R. Locke dtd Toledo, 4p. A.L.S.
1892, Jne. 20 Waldron, Sophie T. (R.L.) 2p. A.L.S.
1892, Aug. 16 Knabenshue, Samuel S. to R.L. dtd Toledo, 2p. A.L.S.
1893, Mch. 21 Adams, W.E. to (R.L.) Dtd Newcastle on Tyne. 3p. A.L.S.
MASON, R. Adj. Gen. Columbus, O. to David R. Locke, Bucyrus O. Appointment, signed.
MILAN, Kate to R. F. Locke Feb. 18, 1892. Toledo, o. 4p. A.L.S.
NAST, Thomas to David R. Locke dtd Mch. 23, 1867. 4p. A.L.S.
NAST, Thomas to David R. Locke dtd May 20, 1867. 4p. A.L.S.
SMITH, Jasper to Robinson Locke dtd Nottingham, Aug. 3, 1885. 4p. A.L.S.
TWAIN, Mark - Photograph with P. Nasby & J. Billings - (The American Humorists)
WAITE, Morrison R.
Silk menu of complimentary dinner by Citizens of Toledo with env. Prtd in gilt, Dec. 18, 1871.
WALDRON, Sophie T. to Robinson Locke, Jne. 20, 1892. 2p. A.L.S.
WATTERSON, Helen to ( Robinson) Locke dtd N.Y. "Evening Sun" A.L.S. Sept.6, 1890
Index to the List of Correspondence for Scrapbooks
Locke, Robinson to, dtd The Toledo Blade Co., Toledo, O., Oct. 28, 1908. 1p. A.L.S. (Xerox copy).
Locke, Robinson to, dtd Toledo Blade Co., Toledo, O., Sept. 30, 1909. 1 p. A.L.S. (Xerox copy).
Locke, Robinson to, dtd The Toledo Blade Co., Toledo, O., May 17, 1910. 1p. A.L.S. (Xerox copy).
Locke, Robinson to, dtd The Toledo Blade Co., Toledo, O., Sept. 8, 1910. 1p. A.L.S. (Xerox copy).
Locke, Robinson to, dtd The Toledo Blade Co., Toledo, O., Aug. 25, 1909. 1p. A.L.S. (Xerox copy).
Locke, Robinson to, dtd The Toledo Blade Co., Toledo, O., Nov. 11, 1912. 1p. T.L.S. (Photocopy).
Carte de visite of David Ross Locke
David Ross Locke souvenir signatures
Locke, David Ross to "Mr. McEeady" dtd, New York, Nov. 22, 1873
Carte de visite of David Ross Locke, Brady and Co.
Copy of The Nasby Papers, C. O. Perrine & Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1864