On This Day in 1925: The “Monkey Trial” Begins

By Steve Kemper

Photos © Watson Davis

In the summer of 1925, when William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow clashed over the teaching of evolution in Dayton, Tennessee, the Scopes trial was depicted in newspapers across the country as a titanic struggle. The site of their showdown was so obscure the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had to inquire, “Why Dayton, of all places?”

Tennessee had recently passed a law that made teaching evolution illegal. After the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced it would defend anyone who challenged the statute, it occurred to several Dayton businessmen that finding a volunteer to take up the offer might be a good way to put their moribund little town on the map.

Continue reading and see more photos at Smithsonian.com.

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