Of Monkeys and Men: Public and Private Views from the Scopes Trial

In July 1925 radios across America were tuned to a courtroom drama unfolding in a small town in East Tennessee. The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes was a test of the Butler Act, which made it illegal for Tennessee’s public schools “to teach any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” The American Civil Liberties Union advertised for a Tennessee teacher willing to test the constitutionality of the new law. Hoping to put Dayton, Tennessee on the map and revive the flagging local economy, community leaders enlisted John Scopes, a popular young high school teacher, to stand as defendant. Big-name lawyers William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow took opposing sides at the trial. Their participation launched a media circus. The Scopes Trial began an ongoing national debate on the intersection of science and religion in the public schools.

Of Monkeys and Men: Public and Private Views from the Scopes Trial digital collection consists of selected documents and photographs from the Sue K. Hicks Papers and the W.C. Robinson Collection of Scopes Trial Photographs. Sue K. Hicks, a Dayton lawyer, was a member of the Scopes prosecution team. The digital collection includes letters, notes, and other documents assembled by Hicks during the trial. W.C. Robinson was the son of “Doc” Robinson, owner of the Dayton drugstore where Scopes “Monkey Trial” spectators were greeted by a trained chimpanzee wearing a suit and bow tie. Sue Hicks and Doc Robinson were two of the community leaders who initiated the Dayton trial.