Original Photos from the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial: Read Your Bibles on Privies

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Tennessee v. John T. Scopes Trial: Privies outside the Rhea County (Tennessee) courthouse with “Read Your Bible” sign.
Image: Watson Davis (1896-1967), courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution (copyright free). [larger view].

For the first time ever, a series of 39 original photographs from the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial are now available for your viewing pleasure.

Description: Taken during the Tennessee v. John T. Scopes Trial. July 1925
Creator/Photographer: Watson Davis
Medium: Black and white photographic print
Dimensions: 3 in x 4.25 in
Culture: American
Geography: USA
Date: 1925
Persistent URL
Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives
Collection: Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes Trial Photographs – During 1925, Watson Davis (1896-1967), Science Service managing editor, took numerous photographs while covering the State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes trial as a reporter. In what was dubbed “The Trial of the Century,” Scopes was tried and convicted for violating a state law prohibiting the teaching of the theory of evolution. William Jennings Bryan served on the prosecution team, and Clarence Darrow defended Scopes. Almost eighty years later, the nitrate negatives, including portraits of trial participants, and images from the trial itself and significant places in Dayton, were discovered in archival material donated to the Smithsonian by Science Service in 1971. Marcel C. LaFollette, an independent scholar, historian and Smithsonian volunteer uncovered these rare, previously unpublished photographs of the 1925 Tennessee vs. John Scopes “Monkey Trial” in the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA). In 2005, SIA restored fifty-two of the negatives with funds granted by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee. Included here are thirty-nine of the images. All images belong to the Record Unit 7091: Science Service, Records, 1902-1965 collection of SIA. All photographs were taken by Watson Davis, Managing Editor of Science Service, while he was in Dayton, Tennessee, June 4-5, 1925, and July 10-22, 1925. LaFollette identified and dated each of these images, and has published a new book highlighting these and other images from the trial entitled, Reframing Scopes: Journalists, Scientists, and Lost Photographs from the Trial of the Century, University Press of Kansas, 2008.
Accession number: SIA2007-0112
View the entire collection.


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grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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