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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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LINT SOCIETIES. The following announcement resulted in the creation of one of the most unique aid efforts in the CIVIL WAR.

       WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 1862.
       To the Loyal Women and Children of the United States:
         The supply of lint in the market is nearly exhausted. The 
         brave men wounded in the defence of their country will 
         soon be in want of it. I appeal to you to come to our 
         aid in supplying us with this necessary article. There is 
         scarcely a woman or child who cannot scrape lint, and there 
         is no way in which their assistance can be more usefully 
         given than in furnishing us the means to dress the wounds 
         of those who fall in defence of their rights and their home's.
         Contributions will be received in Boston by Surgeon A. McLaren, 
         U.S.A.; New-York, by Surgeon R. Satterlee, U.S.A.; Newark, 
         Assistant-Surgeon Janeway; Philadelphia, Surgeon Geo. E. Cooper, 
         U.S.A.; Baltimore, Surgeon C.C. Cox, U.S.A.; Washington. Surgeon 
         C.J. Lamb, U.S.A.; Cincinnati, Surgeon Clover Perin, U.S.A.; 
         Louisville, Surgeon J.F. Head, U.S.A.; St. Louis, Assistant-Surgeon 
         C.T. Alexander, U.S.A., or by any other medical officer of the army.
         WM. A. HAMMOND, Surg.-Gen. U.S.A. (1)

Making lint for bandages has a long history. Sir Walter Scott mentions "made lint for our soldier's wounds", in his longest novel,Perveil of the Peak, which he wrote in 1822. (2) James Marten's book "Children for the Union" mentions that 'children left school to replace absent men on farms and in factories, helped raise funds for hospitals and other soldiers' causes, and volunteered to knit socks, pick lint, and perform other necessary duties.' (3) The song "Picking Lint" describes pulling lint from old clothing and bundling it together to make wound dressings. (4)


There were two types of "lint". Charpie (pronounced SHAR-pee) was thread pulled from white cotton cloth and bundled into clumps about two inches long. It was used under the felt which was placed over a surgical wound. A regular roller bandage was applied and held in place with a brass, straight pin. The lint absorbed some of the discharge of the wound. Charpie was more easily made than ripping cloth for bandages and rolling them. Loose threads were common; they were collected, trimmed into charpie, and tied into bundles. (5)

The second type of lint was the material scraped from white cotton cloth.

           Meetings were held in the evenings to scrape lint, make 
           bandages and other necessaries to send to our soldier 
           boys in the South. (6)

"What is the best material for lint?" "How is it best scraped and prepared?" "By what means can it be best gathered in the largest quantities?" These questions were discussed at great length. The New York Medical Association for Furnishing Hospital Supplies, held meetings to discuss "the lint question," and finally opened a "lint and bandage depot." Many households gave leisure time to scraping lint and rolling bandages, until the accumulations forced the ordering of a halt. A little later, the making of lint by machine relieved women of any further effort in this direction. (7)



1. "Lint for Wounded Soldiers," New York Times, September 1, 1862. Online: http://www.nytimes.com/1862/09/01/news/lint-for-wounded-soldiers.html

2. "Making Lint," Online: http://www.cwreenactors.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-1926.html

3. Ibid.

4. "Picking Lint" (song). Online: http://www.civilwarpoetry.org/confederate/songs/lint.html

5. Ibid.

6. Snyder, E. A. (Mrs.) Black Hawk County--Past and Present, (website). Online: http://www.uni.edu/historyofblackhawkcounty/peoppioneers/Amusements.htm

7. Livermore, Mary A. "My Story of the War." Online: http://www.ourstory.info/library/1-roots/Livermore/story01.html