Dubbed The Trial of the Century, the State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes trial of July 1925 convicted Scopes for violating a state law prohibiting teaching the theory of evolution and engaged the United States in a debate over the mixture of religion and science in public schools. In honor of the famous trials anniversary, the Smithsonian Institution Archives
has released a new set of 25 portraits of scientists who agreed to testify on behalf of the defense from the Archives Science Service collections. These rarely seen photos, which are assembled together for the first time on the Web, are free and available to researchers and the public on the Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes Trial Photographs set on the Smithsonian Flickr Commons
These photos are added to a series of rare, previously unpublished photographs of the Scopes Monkey Trial on the Smithsonian Flickr Commons, which were discovered by Marcel C. LaFollette, an independent scholar, historian and Smithsonian volunteer, in 2005. Most of these Science Service collection photographsboth the images documenting the trial and the newly added witness portraitswere taken by Watson Davis, managing editor of the syndicated news service Science Service, while he was in Dayton, Tenn., June 45, 1925, and July 1022, 1925. LaFollette identified and dated each of these images and has published a book highlighting new information derived from images of the trial titled, Reframing Scopes: Journalists, Scientists, and Lost Photographs from the Trial of the Century (University Press of Kansas, 2008).
In addition to adding the new witness photos to the Flickr Commons, LaFollette and other Archives staff will blog about the history behind these unique images during the trials July anniversary on the Archives blog, The Bigger Picture.
Among the photos in the Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes Trial Photographs set are also 10 photos of the trial donated to the Archives by Henrietta Silverman Jenrette; they were added to the Smithsonian Flickr Commons in 2010. Jenrettes father, William Silverman, attended the trial with his high school biology teacher and took snapshots while he was there. Jenrette said she donated these photos to the Archives because I appreciate that the Smithsonian has its photos online for all to see.
By assembling images of the Scopes trial along with the new images of trial witnesses all together on the Fickr Commons, the Archives hopes to create an easily accessible resource about this important event in the American experience. The goal for the Smithsonian Archives participating in the Flickr Commons is to make these culturally significant documents and images more accessible to the public, said Effie Kapsalis, the head of the Archives Web and New Media team. We have greatly appreciated the enthusiasm from the visitors we have connected with and the information and insights they lend to the collections.