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January 2, 2013

1860s alcohol burner

Filed under: Item of the Day — Lizzie Ehrenhalt @ 9:30 am

Alcohol burner (open)Alcohol burner (closed)

Today’s item of the day was originally featured in a post published on July 22, 2011.  Since that time, MHS conservators and curators have uncovered new information about its intended use.  This new information is included in the updated description below, and has been added to our online collections database.

Portable alcohol burner for heating surgical instruments in order to cauterize wounds in the field. The burner is made of tinned iron with a brass button catch. It opens flat with a reservoir and cloth tape wick in one half and two folding brass supports in the other.  The brass stand would support the instrument handle while the blade was held about two inches above the flame. The inside of the burner is stamped “E.P./ PARIS”. It was used during the Civil War by Captain William Moore Leyde of the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery, Company B, as a camp stove or lantern.

For details, view the burner in our online collections database.

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2 Responses to “1860s alcohol burner”

  1. Lori Eggleston Says:

    This would not have been used to sterilize instruments, at least not during the Civil War. The Germ Theory didn’t come about until 1874 – AFTER the war. Civil War surgeons did not know the importance of sterilizing their instruments. Alcohol burners could be used to heat instruments for cauterizing wounds though.

    Curator, National Museum of Civil War Medicine

    Lizzie Ehrenhalt reply on April 12th, 2013:

    Dear Lori,

    Thanks for your comment. We have edited the blog post and its corresponding catalog record accordingly.


    Lizzie Ehrenhalt
    Collections Assistant

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