Today, I'm going to talk a little about one of my favorite keys in our collection here at the Baldpate. The key that was donated by Clarence Darrow in 1923 has the honor of being considered the "First key to Baldpate." It is possible that other keys were donated before Darrow made his donation, but Darrow's key will always be considered the first. Our key collection began after World War I when the original owners, the Maces, could no longer afford to give each of their guests individual keys to the Inn. Part of the story tells that Clarence Darrow actually made the suggestion that guests bring keys back to the Inn. It is safe to say, that if it wasn't for Darrow, I may not have this job today.
Let me tell you a little bit about Clarence Darrow, a well-known attorney. His father was an atheist (Well, that seems like a strange way to start this, right? It's relevant, though.). "The fact that my father was a heretic always put him on the defensive," Darrow wrote. "We children thought it was only right and loyal that we should defend his cause." Darrow's way of thinking led him participate in the famous Scopes "monkey trial."
In the last decade of the 1800s, Darrow worked to defend strikers, labor leaders, and anarchists. He became a celebrity of the radical left. Darrow experienced a rough patch after taking on a case that nearly destroyed his career. He made a bit of a career change and became a criminal defense lawyer. In the 1920s, Darrow was the most famous trial lawyer in America. He longed for a public debate with William Jennings Bryan over religion and science because he disagreed with Bryan's religious views. He got his opportunity with the Scopes trial.
The trial took place after John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in a public Tennessee high school. Darrow faced a real struggle trying to convince the judge and jury that Scopes was innocent and the anti-evolution law should be overturned. On the seventh day of the trial, Darrow called Bryan to the stand as an expert on the Bible. This move led to a furious argument between the two men. Many believed that Darrow made a fool out of Bryan, but some believed it to be cruel, especially when Bryan died five days after the trial. Bryan did win the case, but Darrow made progress by publicizing scientific evidence for evolution.
As Clarence Darrow remains a significant figure in our country's history, we are honored that he is such an important part of The Baldpate's history as well!
Key Room Museum Curator