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A generation of premature babies saved by a “Coney Island Incubator Side Show”

Posted by Valerie Sterling on

A generation of premature babies saved by a “Coney Island Incubator Side Show”

 Have you heard of Coney Island Entertainment Sideshow?

When Marion Conlin gave birth to her twins earlier than expected, one didn't make it and she and her husband, Woosley, knew they couldn’t afford to lose the other one.

Woosley remembered seeing a carnival showcasing premature babies and heard that a similar specialist had set up a comparable show in Coney Island. So while their own physician convinced them that all was lost, Woolsey snatched his 2-pound little girl, kept running from the medical clinic and hailed a taxi, trusting the Coney Island sideshow could spare her life.

Here is the story of this crazy Coney Island carnival that helped to save many premature babies' lives.

Conceived in Prussie in 1869 and moved to New York at the age of 18. Martin Couney also is known as Michael Cohn who doesn’t have any therapeutic accreditations ran the "youngster incubation facility".  

He went through 40 years as the main restorative trust in guardians of children brought into the world too soon in New York City and past. According to sources, he spared somewhere in the range of 6,500 and 7,000 lives.

It all started when Couney visited the machines around America and built up a show in Coney Island in 1903.

Guests to the sideshow were charged a quarter to see the infants, and the cash went towards supporting their operation.

As one may expect, individuals didn't have a clue what to think about the display from the outset.

A correspondent for the Brooklyn Eagle paper, in a story, featured "Most bizarre Place on Earth for Human Tots to be Fed, Nursed and Cared For," composed that the possibility of "lecturing the passing crowd with an end goal to redirect its shekels for a display so genuine, not to say holy, strikes one as flawed, practically repellent." But before the finish of the piece, the creator's impression had turned positive, applauding the consideration the youngsters got.

Couney enlisted barkers to remain outside the display and pull in clients, shouting mottos like, "Remember to see the infants!" Couney himself formed into a remarkable entertainer, hamming it up for the press and the groups.

Couney was in the lifesaving industry, and he paid attention to it. The display was impeccable. The children were dropped off by scared parents who hoped Couney could help them, where clinics wouldn't or couldn't in that day and time. But when new youngsters showed up, they were quickly washed, scoured with liquor and swaddled tight, at that point "put in a hatchery kept at 96 or so degrees, contingent upon the patient. The premies who could suckle were taken upstairs and breastfed by wet medical attendants who lived in the structure. The rest were fed by a piped spoon.

Even the attendants — whose authentic therapeutic degrees helped compensate for the nonattendance of Couney's in cases, for example, marking demise declarations — comprehended that keeping up the entertainment biz, all things considered, was vital to keeping the activity alive. They would frequently bolster or wash the children where individuals could watch, and one attendant would "streak a precious stone ring and slip it over a baby's wrist, as far as possible up its thin arm, to exhibit scale." 

Though Couney couldn't save every child, he guaranteed a the parents an 85 percent endurance rate. Eventually, the majority of these premature patients returned home to their families in two or three months.


Couney offered real proof of his prosperity. He held reunions, welcoming kids who been spared in his hatcheries. In 1909 in Chicago, he even held a "best preemie" rivalry contest.

The victor, a 3-year-old named Burton who was judged the "most advantageous, handsomest, and best-created," was granted a little red wagon.

At the 1939 World's Fair, he was drawn closer by a 19-year-old girl who said she was one of the children he had spared. Her name was Lucille Conlin. She was Marion and Woolsey Conlin's enduring girl. She grew up and eventually became a medical attendant.

During his time of sparing infants, Couney understood there were better alternatives than what most doctors and hospitals currently used. He attempted to sell, or even give, his hatcheries to clinics, however, they refused to take them. He even offered every one of his hatcheries to the city of New York in 1940, yet was turned down because the machine was hard to operate and there were not enough personnel who were trained to operate it.

Couney passed on in 1950 at age 80. He had shut his show down just seven years earlier is a confirmation both to his commitment to helping these special youngsters, and the disappointment of the medical industry to assume the pivotal activity of sparing their lives.

Finally, in 1943, Cornell New York Hospital opened the city's originally committed untimely baby station, that same year Dr. Martin Couney shut his show for the last time. He said his work was finished."

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