Unpublished Photographs from 1925 Tennessee vs. John Scopes "Monkey Trial" Found in Smithsonian Archives

Marcel C. LaFollette, an independent scholar, historian and Smithsonian volunteer uncovered rare, unpublished photographs of the 1925 Tennessee vs. John Scopes “Monkey Trial” in the Smithsonian Institution Archives. The nitrate negatives, including portraits of trial participants, and images from the trial itself and significant places in Dayton, were discovered in archival material donated to the Smithsonian by Science Service in 1971. The online finding aid to records of the Science Service, 1902-1965 (SIA Record Unit 7091) list additional materials in the collection.

Science Service is a Washington, D.C.-based organization founded in 1921 for the promotion of science writing and information about science in the media. Watson Davis (1896-1967), the Science Service managing editor, took these photographs when covering the Scopes trial as a reporter. In the 1925 trial, John

William Jennings Bryan (seated at left) being interrogated by Clarence Seward Darrow, during the trial of State of Tennessee vs. John Thomas Scopes, July 20, 1925
[Image #2005-26202] [click to enlarge]

Scopes was tried and convicted for violating a state law prohibiting the teaching of the theory of evolution. William Jennings Bryan served on the prosecution team, and Clarence Darrow defended Scopes.

In 2005, SIA restored fifty-two of the negatives with funds granted by the Smithsonian Women's Committee. Shown here are twelve of the images. All photographs were taken by Watson Davis, Managing Editor of Science Service, while he was in Dayton, Tennessee, June 4-5, 1925, and July 10-22, 1925.

 

Downtown Dayton, Tennessee, June 1925.

In May 1925, a group of Dayton civic leaders met at F.E. Robinson's Drugstore (sign visible on right) and decided to challenge Tennessee's new statute against the teaching of evolution. One motivation for holding the trial in Dayton was to revive the town's flagging economy. [click to enlarge]

John Thomas Scopes, Dayton, Tennessee, June 1925.

The 24-year-old Scopes was in his first job after graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1924. He taught algebra and physics, served as athletic coach, and occasionally substituted in biology classes at the Rhea County High School. [Image #2005-33522] [click to enlarge]

George Washington Rappleyea (left) and John Thomas Scopes (right), Dayton, Tennessee, June 1925.

Rappleyea was an engineer and geologist who managed the Cumberland Coal & Iron Company, and he is widely credited with suggesting that Dayton challenge the new anti-evolution statute. [Image #2007-106] [click to enlarge]

 

John Thomas Scopes (left) and George Washington Rappleyea (right), Dayton, Tennessee, June 1925.

Watson Davis stopped in Dayton June 4-5, 1925, on his way to the West Coast in order to meet Scopes, Rappleyea, and some of the lawyers involved on both sides of the case. [Image #2005-35069] [click to enlarge]

Rhea County High School, Dayton, Tennessee, June 1925.

[click to enlarge]

F.E. Robinson's Drugstore, June 1925.

Robinson, who was president of the local school board, advertised himself as "The Hustling Druggist." [Image #2005-35068] [click to enlarge]

Rhea County Courthouse, Dayton, Tennessee, June 1925.

[click to enlarge]

William Jennings Bryan (seated at left) being interrogated by Clarence Seward Darrow, during the trial of State of Tennessee vs. John Thomas Scopes, July 20, 1925.

That Monday afternoon, because of the extreme heat, Judge Raulston decided to move the court proceedings outdoors. The session was held on a platform that had been erected at the front of the Rhea County Courthouse to accommodate ministers who wanted to preach during the time of the trial. Defense lawyers for Scopes (John R. Neal, Arthur Garfield Hays, and Dudley Field Malone) are visible seated to the extreme right. One of the men at left, with his back to the camera, appears to be Scopes. The court reporters are seated at the table. The photographer appears to have been standing on the platform directly behind Scopes. [Image #2007-105] [click to enlarge]

William Jennings Bryan (seated at left) being interrogated by Clarence Seward Darrow, during the trial of State of Tennessee vs. John Thomas Scopes, July 20, 1925.

That Monday afternoon, because of the extreme heat, Judge Raulston decided to move the court proceedings outdoors. The session was held on a platform that had been erected at the front of the Rhea County Courthouse to accommodate ministers who wanted to preach during the time of the trial. Defense lawyers for Scopes (John R. Neal, Arthur Garfield Hays, and Dudley Field Malone) are visible seated to the extreme right. One of the men at left, with his back to the camera, appears to be Scopes. The court reporters are seated at the table. The photographer appears to have been standing on the platform directly behind Scopes. [Image #2005-26202] [click to enlarge]

Rev. Howard Gale Byrd, Dayton, Tennessee, July 1925.

On July 19, 1925, Rev. Byrd resigned as pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church North in Dayton when members of his congregation objected because a visiting minister, Rev. Charles Francis Potter of the West Side Unitarian Church in New York City, proposed to preach on the topic of evolution. [click to enlarge]

Rev. Howard Gale Byrd (left) and Rev. Charles Francis Potter (right), with Byrd's children John and Lillian, in front of the parsonage, Dayton, Tennessee, July 1925.

[click to enlarge]

Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, publisher of the Little Blue Books, Dayton, Tennessee, July 1925.

The trial of John Thomas Scopes attracted many celebrities, ministers, and other public figures. Haldeman-Julius and his wife Marcet had driven over 200 miles from their home in Kansas to observe the trial. He is shown on the steps of "Defense Mansion," an old Victorian house owned by the coal and iron company, which had been quickly restored by George Washington Rappleyea to accommodate the defense team and their scientific witnesses. [click to enlarge]


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