The Scopes 'Monkey Trial'
- July 10-25, 1925

Captured the world's attention in July, 1925

"Rationalists challenge a Tennessee law forbidding the teaching of evolution"


Clarence Darrow,
famed and brilliant lawyer specializing in defending underdogs, who volunteered for this case to help combat fundamentalist ignorance

William Jennings Bryan,
known as "The Great Commoner," a tent-revivalist, three-time presidential candidate and former Secretary of State to Woodrow Wilson. His checkered political career over, he switched to the evangelism business. He said: "I am more interested in the rock of ages than in the age of rocks."

John T. Scopes, a 24-year old science teacher and football coach

Clarence Darrow

The world's attention was riveted on Dayton, Tennessee,
during July, 1925.
At issue was the constitutionality of the "Butler Law," which prohibited the teaching of evolution in the classroom. Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina and Kentucky already had such laws.
The ACLU hoped to use the Scopes case to test (and defeat)Fundamentalist meddling in politics.
Judge John Raulston began the trial by reading the first 27 verses of Genesis.
Heated Words Are Passed as Defense Calls Prayers Argumentative.
Defense Then Falls in Plan to Have Alternate Modernist and Fundamentalist Prayers

Two Apes and 'Link' Arrive at Dayton
July 14, 1925 Two Chimpanzees
and a strange appearing man who is called the "missing link" were brought today to Dayton. After flocking to view the monkeys, Dayton has decided that it was not man who evolved from the anthropoid, but the anthropoid which devolved from man; and it points now at the two chimpanzees and the "missing link" to prove the assertion. ...Mr. Bryan's eyes sparkled as he gazed at the chimpanzee.
"Wonderful!" he said. "Wonderful!"

Later came the jury, whose time has been hanging heavy since they have been barred from the court room while counsel argued abstractions of law. They had got tired of listening to the proceedings over the radio loud-speaker on the Court House lawn. They were led to the "monkey house" by Captain Jack Thompson, the juror who looks like Buffalo Bill, and who waved nearly all of Dayton's small boys out of the way as he entered the doorway.


The "missing link" is Jo Viens, formerly of Burlington, Vt., where it was said, he was once mascot for the Burlington Fire Department. He is a man, 51 years old, three and one-half feet tall, has a receding forehead and a protruding jaw not unlike a simians's, and a peculiar shuffling walk which is described as that of an anthropoid, and Mr. Nye asserted he was and example of how men "may go down now even as he went down ages ago into the anthropoid."

...Regardless, however of Dayton's resentment toward the chimpanzee as an alleged ancestor, the small children of the town took a fancy to Joe Mendi [the monkey] ...on the front lawn.

Movie cameramen...took pictures of Joe, wearing a plaid suit, a brown fedora and white spats, right in the yard of F. E. Robinson, who, besides owning the drugstore "where it started," also is President of the School Board.


DAYTON, Tenn. July 13 - Rhea County's court room, the second largest in the State, a room sixty feet square and seating more than 300 persons, was filled again today at the second session of the case of the State of Tennessee vs. John Thomas Scopes for teaching evolution.
The crowd filled the aisles, the windows, the doors, the space behind bar and bench, while photographers and movie men were perched on chairs, tables and ladders and more than a hundred newspaper and magazine writers were cramped at a pine table set with muffled telegraph instruments and typewriters, and a radio announcer pushed through the crush of counsel to set his microphone for the edification and amusement of his radio patrons.
...By which time the room was heavy with the sultriness of high humidity, a Babel of of voices drowned the sound of telegraph keys and typewriters...there was a flurry of interest when William Jennings Bryan, [in a] pith helmet, carrying a palm leaf fan and briefcase, strolled in with a smile and a ready ear for a score of men who rushed up to congratulate him on his sermon yesterday.

Bryan and Darrow Exchange Gifts of Carved Monkeys

DAYTON, Tenn. July 15. - William J. Bryan and Clarence Darrow, Fundamentalist and agnostic, antagonists in the Scopes trial, exchanged courtesies in the Rhea County courtroom today at the end of the day's session.
Mr. Bryan went to Mr. Darrow in front of the bench with the image of a monkey in his hand. He was smiling.
A friend of mine sent me this and asked me to give it to you," he said. "It's carved from a peach pit, and it's so pretty I'd like you to keep it."
"I'm glad to have it," said Mr. Darrow, also smiling, as he took the gift. "I have one almost like it, and I'll give it to you in exchange."

Darrow's defense plan was to present a series of scientists and experts, but the prosecution was not about to allow Darrow to use the courtroom and the national stage to spread evolutionist heresies. They said that since the theory of evolution violated the story of creation as told in the Bible, anything the experts might say about birds and bugs would be immaterial, irrelevant, and incompetent.
Judge Raulston refused to rule against the admissibility of such evidence until he had heard some of it. The jury was (once again) banished; and Dr Maynard Metcalf, zoologist from Johns Hopkins University, took the stand. He outlined the theory of evolution, and findings of geologists, zoologists and anthropologists, and sketched briefly the development of man from primate.

The packed, hot courtroom went nuts. Attorney General Stewart attacked Darrow, and said that with his mind and manners he could have done great work in the service of God, and yet he had "strayed so far from the natural goal" and aligned himself with "that which strikes its fangs at the very bosom of Christianity."
Hearty "Amens" from the crowd filled the air - Darrow wheeled and glared daggers at them.
With the jury still out of the room, Bryan stood and a hush fell over the spectators. He would allow no more of this "pseudoscientific evidence to be interjected into the trial." He got "Amens," laughter and applause from the crowd with several flippant jokes: he "could quote the number of animal breeds in round numbers, but he didn't think animals bred in round numbers." The room was filled with shouted agreement when he lamented satirically "that the evolutionists wouldn't even let us descend from American monkeys, only from European monkeys."
He then launched into a long sermon about the immutability of revealed religion, drawing "Amens" and increasingly thunderous applause from the audience, climaxing in an plea for Fundamentalist taxpayers rights. The Judge called a recess.

In the morning, the Judge ruled to exclude the experts and their testimony. He based his ruling on the claim that neither religion nor evolution was on trial, that Scopes was on trial for violating a specific Tennessee law.

Darrow, after an exchange with the Judge, was charged with contempt of court, and another day passed. The next morning, Judge Raulston moved the trial onto the Courthouse lawn because the throngs inside, with all their clapping and stamping in the 100+ degree heat, were weakening the floor and it was in danger of collapsing. On the lawn, on Sunday meeting platforms, Court was held in front of five thousand spectators.

Darrow, as a last recourse, chose his old strategem of putting the prosecution on the defense, and heightened the already rapt attention of the world by putting Bryan on the stand. If he couldn't use scientists to prove evolution, HE would disprove Bryan and the Bible. It turned the tide of the trial, and of public sentiment.

Bryan faced his inquisitor.

"You have given considerable study to the Bible, haven't you, Mr. Bryan?"
"Yes I have, I have studied the Bible for about fifty years."
"Do you claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?"
"I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there ..."
"Do you believe Joshua made the sun stand still?"
"I believe what the Bible says."
"I suppose you mean that the earth stood still?"
"I don't know. I am talking about the Bible now. I accept the Bible absolutely."
More questions show that Bryan barely understands the workings of the solar system, then Darrow asks:
(Darrow)You believe the story of the flood to be a literal interpretation?
(Bryan)Yes sir.
(Darrow)When was that flood?
(Bryan)I would not attempt to fix the day.
(Darrow)But what do you think the Bible itself says? Don't you know how it was arrived at?
(Bryan)I never made a calculation.
(Darrow)What do you think?
(Bryan)I do not think about things I don't think about.
(Darrow)Do you think about the things you do think about?
(Bryan)Well sometimes.

Now, the crowd in the courtyard was laughing at Bryan instead of Darrow.
(Darrow) How long ago was the flood, Mr. Bryan?
(Bryan)Two-thousand three hundred and forty-eight years B.C.
(Darrow)You believe that all the living things that were not contained in the ark were destroyed?
(Bryan)I think the fish may have lived.
(Darrow)Don't you know there are any number of civilizations that are traced back to more than five thousand years?
(Bryan)I am not satisfied with any evidence I have seen.
(Darrow)You believe that every civilization on the earth and every living thing, except possibly the fishes, were wiped out by the flood?
(Bryan)At that time.
(Darrow)You have never had any interest in the age of the various races and peoples and civilizations and animals that exist upon the earth today?
(Bryan)I have never felt a great deal of interest in the effort that has been made to dispute the Bible by the speculations of men or the investigations of men.
(Darrow)And you never have investigated how long man has been on the earth?
(Bryan)I have never found it necessary.
(Darrow)Don't you know that the ancient civilizations of China are six thousand or seven thousand years old, at the very least?
(Bryan)No, but they would not run back beyond the creation, according to the Bible, six thousand years.
(Darrow)You don't know how old they are; is that right?
(Bryan)I don't know how old they are, but probably you do. I think you would give preference to anybody who opposed the Bible.

More questions show Bryan's lack of knowledge of world culture, history and people.
(Darrow)You have never in all your life made any attempt to find out about the other peoples of the earth - how old their civilizations are, how long they have existed on the earth - have you?
(Bryan) No sir, I have been so well satisfied with the Christian religion that I have spent no time trying to find arguments against it. I have all the information I want to live by and to die by.
(Darrow)Do you think the earth was made in six days?"
(Bryan) Not six days of 24 hours.
(Darrow)Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife?
(Bryan) No sir; I leave the agnostics to hunt for her.
(Darrow)Do you think the sun was made on the fourth day?
(Darrow)And they had evening and morning without the sun?
(Bryan) I am simply saying it is a period.
(Darrow)The creation might have been going on for a very long time?
(Bryan)It might have continued for millions of years.
(Darrow)Yes, All right.

Darrow had exposed Bryan as a near imbecile. Darrow asked for and was granted an immediate direct verdict, thereby blocking Bryan from giving a speech he had been preparing for weeks. After eight minutes of deliberation, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty and the judge ordered Scopes to pay a fine of $100, the minimum the law allowed. In his last words to the court, Scopes, the man who was reluctant from the start, said, "Your Honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future ... to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my idea of academic freedom"

William Jennings Bryan

In Memoriam W.J.B.

in Prejudices, 5th Series, H.L.Mencken describes William Jennings Bryan at the trial:

"...But that was the last touch of amiability that I was destined to see in Bryan. The next day the battle joined and his face became hard. By the end of the week he was simply a walking fever. Hour by hour he grew more bitter. What the Christian Scientists call malicious animal magnetism seemed to radiate from him like heat from a stove. From my place in the courtroom, standing upon a table, I looked directly down upon him, sweating horribly and pumping his palm leaf fan. His eyes fascinated me; I watched them all day long. They were blazing points of hatred. They glittered like occult and sinister gems. Now and then they wandered to me, and I got my share, for my reports of the trial had come back to Dayton, and he had read them. It was like coming under fire.
Thus he fought his last fight, thirsting savagely for blood. All sense departed from him. He bit right and left, like a dog with rabies. He descended to demagogy so dreadful that his very associates at the trial table blushed. His one yearning was to keep his yokels heated up, - to lead his forlorn mob of imbeciles against the foe.
One day [Darrow] lured poor Bryan into his astounding argument against the notion that man is a mammal. I am glad I heard it, for otherwise I'd never believe in it. There stood the man who had been thrice a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic - there he stood in the glare of the world, uttering stuff that a boy of eight would laugh at!"


(July 11, 1925) The Rev. Frank Ballard, Christian Evidence lecturer for the Wesleyan conference, writes:

"The assumptions of fundamentalism are so is pitifully manifest that both the science and theology of many of those posing as authorities are half a century behind the times. The notion of the Judge's charge to the Grand Jury beginning with the reading of the First Chapter of Genesis as an account of creation which Tennessee teachers must adopt savors of the sixteenth rather than the twentieth century."


PARISJuly 13, 1925 While there has been no discussion of the issues involved, the French press is following closely the developments in the Dayton case and occasionally bursts out into cynical observations on the subject.

The Paris Soir this evening, describing the case as one which will decide whether "a monkey or Adam was the grandfather of Uncle Sam," writes:
"On this side of the ocean it is difficult to understand the susceptibility of American citizens on the subject and precisely why they should so stubborly cling to the biblical version. It is said in Genesis the first man came from mud and mud is not anything very clean. In any case if the Darwinian hypothesis should irritate any one it should only be the monkey. The monkey is an innocent animal- a vegetarian by birth. He has never placed God on a cross, knows nothing of the art of war, does not practice the lynch law and never dreams of assassinating his fellow beings. The day when science definitely recognizes him as the father of the human race the monkey will have no occasion to be proud of his descendants. That is why it must be concluded that the American Association which is prosecuting the teacher of evolution can be no other than the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals."


Only five days after the trial ended, Bryan lay down for a Sunday afternoon nap and never woke up. His lifelong diabetes and gluttonous eating habits had finally taken their toll.

The trial itself melted into insignificance when more than a year later, on January 14, 1927, the State Supreme Court in Nashville handed down a decision which reversed the earlier one. However, the court's decision stemmed from the very point Darrow sought to avoid - a technicality. By Tennessee state law, the jury, not the judge, must set the fine if it is above $50. The Butler Law, then, stood untested. The image of Fundamentalism, however, was irrevocably tarnished. They had proven themselves to be the "yokels, bigots, and rubes" the press had called them.

Even today, there are people who deny the fact that all life is connected, and that humans are just part of the equation. Fundamentalist insistence on the literal verity of scripture is grounded in a lack of faith, and inability to see a bigger picture. There are, of course, many "good Christians" who accept the Genesis account of creation as what it is, a metaphor.

Clarence Darrow said: "Science gets to the end of its knowledge and, in effect, says, 'I do not know what I do not know,' and keeps on searching. Religion gets to the end of its knowledge, and in effect, says, 'I know what I do not know,' and stops searching.

Genesis says the world was created in six days. It also says that Adam lived 930 years (Gen 5:5), and that Noah was 600 years old when the flood happened (Gen 7:6). We can take these figures literally, believing that "people just lived longer in those days," or if we have a shred of intelligence or honesty, we can surmise that Biblical time reckoning is on a metaphoric scale. Of course, this allows Genesis to agree with observed evolution.

PRIMARY SOURCE materials are letters, diaries, manuscripts, trial transcripts, photographs, eyewitness accounts, etc.

SECONDARY SOURCE materials are books, newspaper articles, microfilm, documentary video, etc.

TERTIARY SOURCE materials are student essays, webpages, gossip, pulp magazine articles, etc.

About Citing This Page as A Source

This webpage is a tertiary source, compiled from secondary sources, as noted below. Citing this page as a source lacks credibility, frankly; if You want to impress your professor, I suggest you refer to secondary or primary sources. Some good ones are listed below. I do not broadcast my full name because of the controversial nature of some of my material. This page is my own report, and my sources are listed below. It was made as a pointer for those interested in doing deeper research from microfilmed newspapers, and books, to hopefully glean a deeper understanding of this interesting bit of history.

To cite this page as a source, please credit: Borndigital, Curator, and provide this url: . The material used in this exhibit consists of direct quotes and scanned headlines from the New York Times, or Stone's biography. I have paraphrased in the lead-in to the trial transcripts, and in the Epilogue.

This page was first mounted in 1995. It began as a prototype for an alternative web-presentation format, and evolved into an historical exhibit.


"Clarence Darrow for the Defense," a biography by Irving Stone, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York, 1941

"Prejudices, 5th Series," H. L. Mencken. New York, A. A. Knopf - 1926.

The New York Times, July 10 through 25th, 1925

Bible Contradictions
Lyall Watson's Lifetide - The Origins Of Life On earth
Fundamentalist's Flat Earth
Debunking Fundamentalism
The Spanish Inquisition
The Founding Fathers Were NOT Christians
Saul of Tarsus, Cults of Mithras, and Christ's Blood