Camila Villafañe

By Camila Villafañe

LifeBuzz Staff

How This Man And His Strange Amusement Park Attraction Saved Millions Of Babies.

In the late 19th century, thousands of premature babies were placed inside incubators to save their lives. But this technology served more than one purpose. It was considered a boardwalk sideshow at the newly opened amusement park called Luna Park in Coney Island. It sounds nuts, but incubators were a source of amusement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. So, you could literally walk into a world’s fair and find a bunch of premature babies inside incubators. But these babies weren’t just there for kicks. They were fighting for their lives and they owed it all to a marvelous German man named Martin Couney.

Premature Baby

Beth Allen’s outlook was grim when she was born three months premature on May 23, 1941. She was one-pound-ten-ounces and neonatal care was still a relatively controversial concept in medicine. But Beth’s family wasn’t ready to give up on their daughter. Despite some hesitation, they turned to the one place in the world who could help Beth: Coney Island.

Premature Baby

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! / YouTube

Luna Park

Luna Park in Coney Island wasn’t exactly the place you’d consider ideal to get medical advice. Coney Island was known for its sideshow stalls, roller coasters, and loads of tourists, but Beth’s mom didn’t go there for the rides. She was there to take Beth to the Luna Park clinic where their savior awaited.

Luna Park

Public Domain

Martin Couney

A German man named Martin Couney introduced himself and then put Beth in one of his incubators. Couney was born in 1869 in the former state of Prussia, and many people assumed he was a medical graduate from Leipzig University. He was even called the incubator doctor. But historians later doubted that he was an actual doctor.

Martin Couney

Martin Couney / YouTube

Neonatal Care

At the time, no one questioned his medical claims, but they were skeptical about the incubators. Even Beth’s mom refused to take her to Couney’s clinic because she insisted her daughter wasn’t a freak. But Couney managed to persuade her to allow him to take care of the neonatal infant before it was too late.

Neonatal Care

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! / YouTube

Stable Environment

Like modern-day incubators, the devices would provide a stable environment for neonatal babies. The machine collected and heated external air to keep the babies comfortable while getting rid of stale air using an exhaust vent. Once the babies were healthy enough to survive on their own, they would be returned to the parents.

Stable Environment

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