In the December 2011 issue of Bank Note Reporter Mark Hotz wrote, “No National Bank Notes are known to have survived from the First National Bank of Rhyolite [Nev.]. Decades of determined collectors have tried to find one, to no avail.”
As the best available substitute, Hotz showed the plate proof from the Smithsonian. If he were to redo the two-part series today, he could include the $10 Date Back note from this Bullfrog Mining District bank pictured here.
The previously unknown note will be featured in Lyn Knight Currency Auctions’ sale during the PCDA National Coin & Currency Convention, Nov. 19-22, at the Crowne Plaza O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill.
It’s a note with fascinating history tied to a gold rush and the short-lived western town (now a well-known ghost town) near the eastern edge of Death Valley. The story of Rhyolite’s rise and fall in the early 1900s was the focus of Hotz’s November and December 2011 installments of his “Hotz Off The Press” column in this publication. The following history is adapted from there:
“In the summer of 1904 Frank ‘Shorty’ Harris and Ed Cross, discovered rich ore in the vicinity of what would become Rhyolite. People soon flocked in to make their claims in what came to be known as the Bullfrog Mining District, named after Shorty and Ed’s original mine.
“By 1909 Rhyolite, Nev. was a substantial town approaching 10,000 in population, third largest city in Nevada and largest railhead in the state, served by three railroads, featuring 45 saloons and dining halls, an electric light plant, four newspapers, several fine hotels, a telephone exchange, water system, and a large, two-story brick school, all supported by three banks, two of which were housed in impressive multi-story stone structures.
“Rhyolite lies about 75 miles northwest of Las Vegas in Nye County, easily accessible on paved roads, the drive a long one over lonely stretches of beautiful desert landscape. It lies a few miles west of Beatty, Nev., a tiny hamlet that straddles the junction of Highways 95 and 374, on the edge of Death Valley.
“Today, Rhyolite is a ghost town in the truest sense of the phrase—its shattered and desolate ruins crumbling on the edge of Death Valley. The John S. Cook Bank Building is the most impressive ruin in the remains of the once lively town. It is one of the most impressive ghost town ruins to be seen anywhere, and has been widely photographed. In addition to the bank, other ruins include the Overbury Building (very little still stands, but its massive lead-lined vault is virtually complete), the façade of the Porter General Store, the shell of the high school, and some distance away, at the foot of Ladd Mountain, the jail. Best preserved is the town’s unique railroad depot, which had served as a casino well into the 1950s.
“The First National Bank of Rhyolite received charter 8686 on May 14, 1907, with a capital of $50,000. The officers were Oscar J. Smith, president; Bert L. Smith and P.A. Busch, vice-presidents, and Frank H. Stickney, cashier. Operating out of temporary offices at first, in 1909 the bank moved into the John S. Cook Bank building when that bank, a branch of a Goldfield bank, liquidated. The John S. Cook building was the largest and most substantial in Rhyolite.
“The First National Bank of Rhyolite circulated just two types of National Bank Notes: Series of 1902 Red Seals and Series of 1902, Blue Seal Date Backs. Notes were printed in the $5 and $10 denominations only, with 820 sheets of Red Seals and 248 sheets of Blue Seals issued, for a total value of $30,640.” Total known surviving today is just this $10.
For additional information on the sale, visit www.lynknight.com.
This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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