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The Story Behind the
Scopes "Monkey" Trial

Many Americans have heard about the Scopes "Monkey" trial. A classic movie, Inherit the Wind, was even made in 1960 based on the famous trial. The movie starred Spencer Tracy and Fredric March.

The synopsis of the movie that is generally known goes as follows: A high school Biology teacher, John Scopes, in Dayton, Tennessee, was brought to trial for teaching the Darwin theory of evolution. Being a highly religious town, charges were brought upon the teacher since the theory of evolution went against the version in the Bible. At the end of the trial, the Biology teacher was found guilty.

Now the real story behind this famous trial. After Tennessee became the third state to pass a law forbiding the teaching of evolution, the ACLU placed newspaper ads looking for a test case with which to challenge the law. The town leaders of Dayton saw this as an opportunity to gain publicity for the town, and, hopefully bring in the tourists. They approached John Scopes, a part-time substitute teacher to tell them their plan. He agreed to go along with the plan and go to trial. The defendant's attorney, Clarence Darrow, didn't even try to get his client acquitted. In fact, he wanted Scopes to be found guilty so he could file appeals and continue the publicity. Indeed, Scope was found guilty. However, the judge in the case let Scopes off on a technicality.

The publicity worked very well. Tourists flocked to Dayton while the trial was going on hoping to get a seat inside the courtroom. Hundreds could not get in so they stood around the courthouse waiting for updates. Even after the trial ended, flocks of tourists continued to visit Dayton to see where the famous trial took place. As the saying goes, this trial put Dayton, Tennessee "on the map." Now, even 80 years later, the trial is still known to literally millions of people.

A Single Word That Made a BIG Difference

By July 1944, it was apparent that World War II was coming to an end. The Potsdam Declaration, which spelled out the terms of surrender, was presented to premier Suzuzki and his cabinet. At a press conference, shortly after receiving the Declaration and asked what his thoughts were, Suzuzki, unfortunately, used a Japanese word that has two meanings. He told the reporters that his cabinet was adopting of position of mokusatsu.

The word mokusatsu can mean "withhold of comment for the moment." It can also mean "ignore." The Japanese News Agency mistakenly translated it the second way. Radio Tokyo flashed the mistake to the world. Headlines in the United States blared that Japan was ignoring the declaration and rejecting the surrender terms.

The results were VERY tragic. President Truman, based on the false information, decided that he had no choice but to go ahead and drop the atomic bomb. More than a hundred thousand people were killed and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki virtually destroyed - in part because of one leader that chose the wrong word to use.

The dramatic story of exploration, conquest and colonization of North America

Some came seeking incredible riches. Others sought an elusive sea passage to the Orient. Still others, personal glory. CONQUEST OF AMERICA, a four-part special presentation, tells the story of the exploration of North America through the words of the men who undertook the journeys. CONQUEST OF AMERICA airs Monday, March 28 and Tuesday, March 29 at 9:00 11:00 pm ET/PT on The History Channel. Emmy-Award winning actor Jeffrey Wright narrates the special.

CONQUEST OF AMERICA is an epic saga full of great adventures, foolish quests, unspeakable cruelty, unimaginable bravery and an unquenchable thirst for glory and riches. It is a story of lost cities of gold, legendary sea passages to China, religious wars, national pride, mutiny on the high seas and uprisings in unfamiliar lands. CONQUEST OF AMERICA is a story of European politics and intrigue. Wars fought over religion and trade in the Old World will have dire repercussions for colonists, conquerors and conquered an ocean away.

Each episode of CONQUEST OF AMERICA crystallizes the conquest of a different geographical region of North America by focusing on a primary explorer in that territory: Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in the Southwest; Pedro Menendez and Jean Ribault in the Southeast; Henry Hudson in the Northeast; and Vitus Bering and Nicolai Rezanov in the Pacific Northwest. These stories play like amazing action-adventure tales, taken from the explorers' own journals, and the letters and writings of eyewitnesses. Dramatic dialog and scenes throughout are derived from the historical records, diaries of Europeans and the oral histories of Native American participants.

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HistoryBuff Auction

Bidding in the March 2005 online HistoryBuff Auction is now open for bidding. Over 600 lots of paper collectibles are offeed. Dates range from the 1600s to 1980s. Bidding ends March 18, 2005. The URL for the HistoryBuff Auction is

February Contest


1) Only two American presidents are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Who are they?

ANSWER: William Howard Taft and John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Seventy people entered the March alternate contest. Nine were disqualified because they did not have the correct subject heading in their email entry. Six people did not indicate which prize they wanted to win. Three had incorrect answers. Two sent their entry after the deadline. This left fifty people eligible to win the alternate contest. One was notified that he was a winner but he failed to respond with where he wanted his prize mailed.

Thirty people entered the grand prize drawing. Six did not have the correct subject line. Seven people did not submit an essay and provided only the answer to the alternate contest question. Nine people submitted BOTH the answer to the alternate contest question as well as the required essay. This left only six people still eligible to win. One was selected to win the grand prize.

The March winners were:


    • Carole Jordan - South Carolina
    • Richard Weiss - Rhode Island
    • Emily Gibb - Ohio
    • Sarah Throop - Illinois
    • Tom McClellan - Texas
    • Crystal Sandberg - Nebraska
    • Jennie Arent - Pennsylvania
    • Mark Nagi - Tennesee
    • Thomas Arthur - North Carolina
    • Hannah Cupp - Arkansas

This Issue's Question

To enter the Grand Prize Contest, send by email an essay of not more than 75 words relating why you want to win it.

To enter the Alternate Contest, answer the question below and indicate which prize you want if you win. (Only one of each available.)

Alternate Contest Question: Only one American president received NO popular votes, NO electoral votes, and WAS NOT a Vice-President before becoming President. Who was it?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Monday, April 18, 2005. Later entries will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but can only win one prize.

  • To enter, email your answer to

  • If entering for the Grand Prize, enter "Contest Entry Grand Prize" for the subject heading. Include ONLY your essay and NOT the answer to the alternate contest question.

  • If entering for any of the alternate contest prizes, enter "Contest Entry" for the subject heading and answer the Alternate Contest Question.

  • If entering both contests, send separate emails.

  • From subscribers submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which prize they want to win, ten will be selected to win one of the prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.

Grand Prize
(One winner will be selected)

The Presidents DVD + Book Set
This ambitious, 8-part series traces the history of America's highest office from the Revolution to the 2004 campaign. Included in this exclusive set is the acclaimed book "To the Best of My Ability", from which this series is based.
Alternate Contest Prizes

Three classic Three Stooges shorts
One hour of classic comedy from the 1940s

Classic Betty Boop Cartoons
Over one hour of classic animation

Who Killed Doc Robbin (1948)
Hal Roach, aftetr the demise of his Little Rascals, tried starting up again with a new set of kid actors.

Wild West Tech
This series explores the technology used in the old west - the inventions that made the difference between life and death
Original Historic Newspapers

Original New-England Galaxy historic newspaper from 1826

Original New York Observer historic newspaper from 1836

Original Worcester Daily Spy historic newspaper from 1859

Original Wellsville Daily Reporter (New York) historic newspaper from 1882

Public Ledger (Philadelphia) historic newspaper from 1895
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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