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Baby Incubators in the Amusement Zone 1939-40 NY World's Fair
Baby Incubators - captured from Reel 1 - Part 1 of the Philip A. Medicus film.

Dr. Martin Couney opened his first incubator exhibit in Berlin in 1896. Over the forty-three years Dr. Couney cared for 8,000 premature babies of which 6,500 survived. The concession at “The World of Tomorrow” was the twenty-second exposition in which the seventy-one year old Dr. Couney operated an incubator exhibit.

He also exhibited his incubators for thirty-six consecutive years at Coney Island and Atlantic City. Dr. Couney only ran his incubator concessions during the summer months. Following the Fair’s season, he retired from both locations.

The exterior inscription of the blue and pink building read: “All the World Loves a Baby.” Dr. Couney spent $45,000 on the hospital and turned it over to the city in memory of his wife who died two years previously.

During the Fair’s season, Dr. Couney cared for forty-two premature babies. Any baby weighing less than five pounds was considered premature. Dr. Couney referred to his charges as “preemies.” He may have coined this term. The smallest baby Dr. Couney ever took care of weighed one-pound, nine-ounces. It survived.

Each of the babies wore a large bow tied around the middle of the neat, folded package made by its wrapper with a matching tiny bow around the sleeve. Girls wore pink and boys wore blue.

Admission was 25-cents and 25% of the gross receipts had to be turned over to the Fair authorities.

The cost to maintain a baby was $9.00 a day. Babies were kept at a constant temperature of 85 to 90 degrees. They were fed every three hours – but some were fed hourly, according to their nutritional needs. The nurses bathed, dressed and fed each baby in the same temperature as their incubator. Dr. Couney considered it safe for the babies to be out of the incubator no longer than fifteen minutes.

There were five wet nurses who provided up to six quarts of milk daily and fifteen trained nurses to care for the babies. The nurses worked in three shifts. Dr. Couney’s daughter, Hildegarde, who now assisted her father at the pavilion, was once an incubator baby.

by David J. Cope

Victoria Falls
Baby Incubators - Courtesy of the NYPL - image #1675805

Victoria Falls
Baby Incubators - Courtesy of the NYPL - image #1675809

More information can be found at 'Neonatology on the Web'