Scopes Monkey Trial – Darrow Puts Talking Monkey on the Stand
March 26, 2007
Dateline – June 1925
In a sweltering courtroom in Dayton, Tennessee. Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan argue what many would consider the trial of the century – The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes or as it would later be nicknamed “The Scopes Monkey Trial.” You may recall the event as it was portrayed in the film Inherit the Wind. Here is what you may not know:
Clarence Darrow put a talking monkey on the stand. That’s right. A little monkey was sworn in, sat down, and answered Darrow’s questions for a startling half hour.
From the Dayton Herald News dated June 15, 1925:
The drama of the Scopes matter continued to fascinate and stir the wonder of this small hamlet as a thirty pound African green monkey was called to the stand to answer questions from the defense attorney, the esteemed Clarence Darrow. A shocked crowd proceeded to hoot and holler until reprimanded by Judge John T. Raulston. Much to the amazement of all, the monkey spoke fluently and eloquently when questioned by Darrow. However, the greatest surprise of all came when the prosecution’s William Jennings Bryan rose to question the monkey. Under the harsh pressure of Bryan’s inquisition, the monkey broke down and admitted his answers were coached by Darrow adding, “I don’t believe I am related to any stinkin’ [sic] humans.” Judge Raulston dismissed the jury saying he, “needed to make sense of all this hurly burly.” The monkey was later seen at a local tavern. By most eye wittinesses accounts he was visibly intoxicated.
The monkey, named Jefferson, would become something of a notorious character – setting off the pet monkey craze of 1925. Thousands would experience disappointment with their own pet monkeys lacking Jefferson’s speech abilities. He would also inspire the Cole Porter hit, “The Chatty Monkey Cho Cho.” His battle with the bottle would eventually lead to his demise, when in 1933 Jefferson’s drinking buddy Babe Ruth accidentally sat on him.