Smithsonian Institution > Peter Huntoon's Proof of the Month
Proof of the Month
Peter Huntoon
An unreported $5 Original Series/Series of 1875 note from The Caverna National Bank, charter 2206, is at the top of the wish lists for both Kentucky and spelunker (cave explorer) national bank note collectors. It is one of three cave national banks in the country, the others being The First National Bank of Horse Cave and The H. Y. Davis National Bank of Cave City, both also in Kentucky. The town of Horse Cave has a post office dating from 1860; however, the town was called Caverna from 1869 to 1879. The Caverna bank was chartered in 1874 and liquidated in1876, after issuing only small numbers of Original Series and Series of 1875 $5s. Caverna/Horse Cave is located just east of Mammoth Cave National Park, and 6 miles north of Cave City. A large vertical cave entrance abuts the south side of Main Street yielding the two names used by the town. Horse Cave stuck and there are three myths for the origin of that name. One has it that Native Americans hid horses in the cave. Another is that a horse pulling a carriage was lost down the pit. More plausible is that the word horse was simply a 19th century adjective implying huge derived from the Swedish word Ahoss which means big in stature and spirit. Hoss morphed into horse in Southern slang, and aptly describes the large opening that leads into Hidden River Cave there. Caverna stuck as well, and is used among other things as the name for a regional hospital and school. The Caverna Independent School District encompasses the communities of Horse Cave, Cave City and Mammoth Cave. Photos of issued notes courtesy of Heritage Auction Archives.

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