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.
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.