Newspaper article News Sentinel

Papers to Pixels - the 1920s Brought Park Dreams, Court Drama & Theater

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Papers to Pixels - the 1920s Brought Park Dreams, Court Drama & Theater

Article excerpt

Take a look through East Tennessee history by leafing - digitally - through the newspaper. This month the News Sentinel launches a series of stories using the Knox County Public Library's digital archive of the newspaper to show what's available for library patrons to view.

That archive, made up of digital copies of the News Sentinel from 1922 to 1990, was made possible by the "Papers to Pixels" project. The Knox County Public Library Foundation

project raised more than $600,000 to pay the digital database corporation NewsBank to digitalize 68 years of the paper. (Newer editions were already digitalized.) The archives are accessible to Knox County Public Library cardholders.

Here's a glance at some editions published in the 1920s. The decade saw the start of the drive to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the opening of what's now a Gay Street icon. College officials decried the idea that students needed automobiles; customers eyed a new DeSoto Six and Knoxville remained optimistic after the 1929 stock market crash.

A park dream

Seventeen years before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was dedicated in 1940, the idea of the park was a dream started locally in the early 1920s. "National Park in Smokies is Sought" was the front-page headline of the Dec. 12, 1923, Knoxville News. (The News and Knoxville Sentinel merged in 1926.) The next year, the newspaper detailed a trip to the mountains by federal representatives considering a park. The visit included those representatives taking an airplane tour over the hills. Newspaper stories throughout the decade would promote local efforts to raise funds to help buy lands for the park and keep the dream alive.

Ride the rails

Knoxville citizens didn't have a national park close by to escape the July heat in the 1920s. But they took railroad rides north and west to "summer resorts." The Louisville & Nashville Railroad advertised "low summer fares" in July 1924, telling readers they could ride "modern steel trains with unsurpassed dining car service."

A round trip to and from Niagara Falls cost $42.40, one to Atlantic City was $47.62. Knoxvillians could head west to Denver and back for $67.15 or to and from Yellowstone Park for $89.15. They could visit and return from Los Angeles or San Francisco for $105.

'The monkey trial'

Courtroom drama erupted in July 1925 in Dayton, Tenn., John T. Scopes, a high school football coach and chemistry and math teacher, was charged with breaking state law by teaching his students the theory of evolution.

The red brick Rhea County courthouse in the town of 3,000 drew about 200 newspaper reporters plus visiting evangelists and crowds of spectators. At times the three-week-long trial seemed more circus than court case. At some point someone brought a live monkey to the courthouse lawn, helping to give the case its nickname "the monkey trial." It was so hot in the second-floor courtroom that on some days the trial moved outside.

Scopes was charged with breaking the 1925 Butler Act that said public schools could not teach "any theory that denies the story of divine creation of man as taught in the Bible, and ... teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." His trial pitted two of the country's best known personalities. Scopes' attorney was Clarence Darrow, a religious skeptic and likely the era's most famous defense lawyer. Prosecuting Scopes was orator, Bible expert, three-time presidential candidate and fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan.

The trial's most dramatic turn came when Darrow placed Bryan on the stand as an expert witness on the Bible, questioning him on whether the Bible should be literally interpreted. The next day the trial judge ruled Bryan's testimony be removed from the trial record. Darrow then asked the judge to bring in the jury to find Scopes guilty, a legal move that would let him appeal their verdict.

"The crowded courtroom sat breathless as the last tense moments of the trial unfolded before them," the News Sentinel reported. …

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