The Incubator Babies of Coney Island.
All the world loves a baby!
This was one of the signs that hung above the Baby Incubator attraction at Coney Island. In my pandemic flu novel I have several scenes that take place at that fabled amusement park in New York City.
Coney Island specialized in the bizarre and unusual, with sideshows and attractions that would now be considered racist, barbaric, humiliating, and unacceptable to many people. But one of the most unusual and well-loved attractions, little known today, was the Incubator Babies.
In the early part of the 20th Century, babies born at home too early, what we now call preemies, almost always died. The medical specialty of Neonatology that we know today was nonexistent then. A French obstetrician, observing the “poultry warmers’ used for baby chicks, theorized that the same thing might be utilized for preemies.
But in America, there were no hospitals yet willing to undertake this venture.
Until Martin Couney came along.
Couney, a protégé of another French doctor who perfected the use of the glass and steel boxes, asked Couney to accompany him to the Berlin’s World Fair in 1896 to oversee a small group of incubator babies.
The Baby Incubator acted as a small hospital.
For 40 years, his life’s work, Dr. Couney ran the baby incubators.
Thank you, Dr. Couney, for all your hard work!