The Year Was 1925

Benito MussoliniThe year was 1925 and three years after creating a fascist regime, Prime Minister Benito Mussolini seized dictatorial powers. “Il Duce” would rule Italy banning opposition parties and keeping strict controls over the news media.

Following World War I Germany was struggling to make reparations. While France was facing huge post-war debt. In 1923 France had invaded the Ruhr region of Germany (an industrial area that produced coal, steel, and iron) in an effort to extract reparations. The invasion cut off the area from surrounding regions and limited commerce, creating shortages. In 1925, under pressure from the U.S. and Britain, the French withdrew from the Ruhr region.

In Alaska, a diphtheria outbreak threatened the town of Nome. The town only has a small amount of the antitoxin needed and it was beyond expiration. The town’s doctor alerted the governor and U.S. Public Health service of the dangerous situation requesting additional supplies of antitoxin. Because it was January, Nome was all but cut off from the world. At that time, there were no planes available to fly into the frigid climes. A small amount of antitoxin was located in Anchorage–not enough to inoculate the entire town, but enough to slow the epidemic until more supplies could reach the area by ship. It was decided that it would be conveyed, first by railway to Nenana and then by a relay of twenty dog mushers and about one hundred and fifty sled dogs the remaining six hundred and seventy-four miles. They would complete the trip through brutal weather conditions in five and a half days making Balto, the lead dog in the last leg of the trip a national celebrity and saving the town of Nome and its surrounding communities from the epidemic.

Severe weather swept through three states in March of 1925 as the devastating “Tri-State Tornado” carved a two hundred and nineteen mile swath through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Six hundred and ninety-five people died in the storm and two thousand were injured, with the greatest damage in Illinois.

Another storm was brewing in Tennessee in 1925. Modernism was changing society. Women had earned the right to vote in 1920. It was the age of flappers and Jazz, and many Americans flouted Prohibition laws. But as some saw the pendulum swinging too far in that direction there was a pull back to more conservative values and Fundamentalists began to work to restore the values of previous eras.

By that year, legislation was pending in fifteen states banning the teaching of evolution in schools. In Tennessee, legislation passed in 1925 making it illegal to teach “any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals.”

In the town of Dayton, Tennessee a young teacher named John Scopes who had used textbooks including Darwin’s theories of evolution was enlisted by the ACLU to challenge the new statute. William Jennings Bryan was chosen to lead the team for the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow led the case for the defense. The case, now widely referred to as “Scopes Monkey Trial,” received widespread coverage in the media. In fact, it was the first time a trial was broadcast over the radio.

A circus-like atmosphere took over the small town as the trial began, with refreshment stands, banners and signs, and even chimpanzees. Darrow called Bryan to the stand as an expert on the Bible, and proceeded with a withering interrogation. Darrow then called for an immediate verdict from the jury, preventing Bryan from delivering his closing speech. Scopes was found guilty and fined, but vowed to continue to fight the statue. That fine was later overturned because it was determined that any fine of more than fifty dollars should have been delivered by the jury rather than the judge, as was the case in the first trial. Bryan died five days after the trial, due to complications from diabetes. 

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3 thoughts on “The Year Was 1925

  1. The best thing about 1925 if you are your family historian AND your ancestors were from Iowa is that Iowa did a state census in 1925 that is THREE PAGES LONG! (on ancestry.com, you have to just click on the next page 2 more times when you search for it).
    It tells every person’s father’s name and mother’s maiden name. It even tells where the person’s parents were MARRIED!

  2. So how did the Scopes Trail even occur? Here is the rest of the story.

    My great-grandmother had a brother named John Washington Butler, a farmer in Macon Co, TN. John was elected to a 2 year term in the TN State House of Representatives.

    One Saturday, after spending the early hours of the morning in the fields, he wrote down a bill to present to the Legislative body on Monday – to outlawn the teaching of evolution in the school systems. The bill passed by huge majority, and history records the rest.

    John Washington Butler attened the Scopes Trial, was gracious in his belief that the court system ruled, and decided that politics was something he did not want to continue after his 2 years as Respresentative.

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