The Truth About Inherit the Wind

  • Author(s): Carol Iannone
  • When: 1997-02
  • Where: First Things
  • In the middle of the hot summer of 1925, the famous "Monkey Trial" took place in Dayton, Tennessee, a small town of about eighteen hundred people in the Cumberland Valley. A young teacher named John Scopes stood accused of violating the Butler Act, a measure passed earlier that year to restrict the teaching of evolution in state-funded schools. The defense featured the famous attorney Clarence Darrow, and the prosecution starred the celebrated orator, populist, and three-time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Nearly two hundred reporters descended upon the town, including H. L. Mencken of the Baltimore Evening Sun (which helped underwrite Scopes' defense). Newspapers and magazines carried innumerable articles and cartoons on the case, and telegraph operators wired stories to Europe and Australia. For the first time news of an American trial was nationally broadcast by radio, while thousands of people came to Dayton itself to take in what became a virtual carnival, complete with sideshows.

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