A Quest for a Cure
Mammoth Cave National Park in central Kentucky is home to the world’s longest known cave system. The system of chambers and subterranean passageways reflects the park’s extensive and varied history. In 1839, Dr. John Croghan of Louisville, Kentucky, who suffered from tuberculosis, purchased the Mammoth Cave property for $10,000. At a time when minimal medical knowledge of or treatments existed for the “white plague,” a leading cause of death in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Dr. Croghan was interested in the cave in part as a possible sanitarium.
Visitors and miners had reported feeling distinctly well after spending time in the cave and Horace Carter Hovey wrote that “the air is slightly exhilarating, and sustains one in a ramble of five or ten hours, so that at its end he is hardly sensible of fatigue.” Further, having observed that timber and animals did not decay within the cave, Dr. Croghan hoped the environment would be restorative and therapeutic for tuberculosis patients and subsequently established an experimental hospital treatment facility within the cave.