The whole ordeal was orchestrated by a manager of the Cumberland Coal, Iron and Land Company, George Washington Rappleyea. Rappleyea, a New York native, convinced Dayton business leaders that a test case of the Butler Act would bring much needed attention and publicity to the economically depressed town of Dayton. Rappleyea and the business leaders met Scopes who agreed to admit to teaching evolution, even though he may have not in reality- a point that was never even addressed during the court proceedings.
On May 5, 1925 Scopes allowed himself to be arrested for teaching evolution. His $500 bail was posted by Baltimore Sun owner Paul Patterson who sent his most cutting and ablest writer- the famed H.L. Mencken- to cover the trial. It was Mencken who actually coined the phrase “Scopes Monkey Trial.”
The trial attracted hundreds of people to the small southern town and a circus scene ensued. Trained chimpanzees danced on the courthouse lawn to the thrill of spectators. Over 200 journalists covered the trial sending out over 165,000 words daily over telegraph wires specially strung for the trial.
After eight days of sometimes dramatic questioning and testimony about the bible and science the judge had heard enough and denied the defense the opportunity to call witnesses. The jurors came back with a guilty verdict and the judge fined Scopes $100- about $1,300 adjusting for inflation from 1925. The verdict was overturned on appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court because judges could not set fines over fifty dollars.
The trial set the tone for the Creationionists vs Evolution debate that rages to this day. But even more importantly the small town of Dayton still enjoys a brisk tourist trade from people wanting to see where the famous “Monkey Trial” took place during a hot summer in 1925.