At the end of the Scopes trial in August of 1925, John Scopes, a high school teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, was found guilty of violating a local ordinance against the teaching of evolution in biology class and fined $100. But for American religion, the trial was a turning point, marking the beginning of the fundmentalist retreat from American society at large. In the dramatic courtroom showdown between the famed lawyer Clarence Darrow and the decrepit Populist William Jennings Bryan (who died a few days after the trial ended), Darrow tried to put received religion itself on trial, and seemed to crystallize the conflict between religious and secular world-views. As Bryan put it, "it is better to trust in the Rock of Ages than to know the ages of rocks."

This collection of photographs, accompanied by two historical essays,brings the Scopes trial to life. What comes through most clearly in thepictures is just what a media circus the trial was. Dayton itself was packed with onlookers, in the crowdedcourtroom, afternoon temperatures often rose above 100 degrees, and souvenirs like palm-leaf fans were ubiquitous. The photographs capture the trial's excitement, and the essays and captions provide invaluable context.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus