The New York Times July 3, 1864

Charcoal Dust a Substitute for Lint

To the Editor of the New-York Times

Having observed that new and useful inventions receive mention in your valuable paper, I send you the following article, translated from the New-York Staats Zeitung, thinking that it may be of use to the sufferers in our hospitals at the seat of war:

"The importance of lint in surgical operations is rendered most evident when the demand for it is in creased by war. Thus the war in Schleswig-Holsteln has called the attention of the German public to that invaluable article. Since lint can only be made of old, worn linen and by manual labor, no machine adapted to the purpose of manufacturing lint having as yet been invented, the discovery of a substitute for that indispensable article would be of great importance. As such, Dr. NEUMANN, of Berlin, designates pulverized charcoal. Charcoal dust of the softer kinds of wood is said to be most adapted to the purpose.
    The application of pulverized charcoal as a substitute for lint, consists simply in sprinkling it in a thick layer over the entire surface of the wound and a portion of the surrounding flesh, after which a linen rag, folded several times, is laid over the wound and fastened with a bandage. If the suppuration is violent and soon moistens the bandage, the latter should be changed after twenty-four hours, otherwise it is not removed until three, eight, or more days have elapsed, when the damp charcoal-dust is replaced by a fresh, dry layer.
    That porous charcoal-dust is an anti-corruptive, and therefore serves a double purpose; it absorbs the matter and also prevents its decomposition. Lint is capable only of absorbing the matter, for which reason its use requires great care and exactitude in cleansing the wound and frequent renewal of the bandage, since otherwise the accumulated matter would aggravate the wound and cause suffering to the patient. Now, frequent washing and removing the bandage may lead to pernicious results, as by these means the newly-formed particles of flesh may be destroyed and the process of healing delayed. We must consequently allow, that since pulverized charcoal, on account of its anti-corruptive qualities, renders a frequent change of bandage unnecessary, its use presents essential advantages. Furthermore, we see from the above, that the application of a lint bandage requires far greater medical skill than that of a bandage made with charcoal-dust, which any one, with ordinary care, may apply. Besides, pulverized charcoal removes the offensive smell of the wound, and its only disadvantage, if disadvantage it be, is that of slightly soiling the patient's clothes, and giving him, if he have several wounds, a strong resemblance to a chimney-sweeper. Even if sometimes, as the discoverer admits, it should happen that out of a hundred wounds healed by charcoal-dust, one should retain a blackish hue from small particles of the charcoal remaining in the scar;—a perfectly harmless circumstance,—it must certainly be admitted that so trifling a disadvantage disappears before the essential advantages of charcoal-dust over lint. Certainly this new substitute for lint ought to be submitted to decisive trials at our hospitals."