Martin Couney set up infant incubator shows at Coney Island, Atlantic City and World’s Fairs, charging 25c to view premature babies. He offered free care for ‘weakling babies’, proving the success of incubators. He saved over 6,500 babies from ~1900-43.

Coney Island’s Incubator Babies

Tourists strolling along the Coney Island boardwalk in the summertime, circa 1920, would have heard the barkers beckoning: “Don’t forget to see the babies!” Those that heeded the call, perhaps after enjoying a hot dog or a ride on the Cyclone, paid a quarter and stepped into a room where the tiniest of infants, weighing two or three pounds each, were on display in individual incubators. Madame Recht, their nurse, occasionally wowed the crowds with a special trick: placing her diamond ring around a baby’s wrist.

It may have been the “Strangest Place on Earth for Human Tots to Be Fed, Nursed and Cared For,” as the Brooklyn Eagle reported in 1903, but for much of the early-to-mid twentieth century, precious few treatment options were avail… Continue Reading