Premature babies displayed at Luna Park

MEDICINE STORIES – The development of the first incubators at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was a revolution for premature babies. But their dissemination will go through curious exhibitions …

An incubator exhibition in Seattle in 1909.
An incubator exhibition in Seattle in 1909. University of Washington Libraries

Like tens of thousands of New Yorkers on that hot day at the turn of the 20th century, you’ve come to Coney Island. In the extreme south of Brooklyn, it is the place of all pleasures: if the beach tires you, go have fun at the first of Luna Park, which has just opened its doors. Are you more of a roller coaster, domesticated elephants, bearded woman? Hot dog, cotton candy, popcorn? Here, but… what can be this great attraction which displays “The Infantorium” on its pediment? A troop of barkers invites you to “Come and see the babies”… Babies, in the middle of a fun fair? Eh yes. And premature babies who are moreover, fragile among all, who die en masse at a time when we give birth mainly at home, and where the care of premature babies often comes down to hot bricks placed in the cradle.

Except at Luna Park. Because here, a doctor has objects that no American hospital has: incubators, made to keep this heat

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