How a Coney Island attraction saved the lives of thousands of premature babies (11 photos)

Category: Nostalgia, PEGI 0+
25 May 2016

Dr. Martin Coney, nicknamed the Incubator Doctor, opened his own amusement park ride on Coney Island in 1903. For 25 cents, anyone could look at premature babies in incubators. Desperate parents themselves brought their babies to the doctor, hoping that his nurses would be able to deliver them. Over the 40 years of his work, Martin Coney managed to save the lives of 6,500 premature babies.

The medical community scolded the doctor for such a medical show, but for premature babies this was the only chance to survive. At that time, there were no incubators in hospitals, so it was not possible for such children to be released. The parents themselves gave their babies to Koni.

For 40 years, from 1903 to 1943, the doctor of Jewish-German origin saved the lives of thousands of newborn children. Behind the beautiful facade of the attraction, children fought for their lives, and those 25 cents helped provide them with the care they needed. The nurses always wore starched white coats, and the room was kept perfectly clean. Martin Coney was a supporter of breastfeeding, and if he saw that one of the nurses was drinking or smoking, he immediately fired them. He even hired a cook to ensure that the women ate properly and fed their children healthy milk.

Beth Allen was one of those babies whose life was saved. She was born three months premature in 1941 in Brooklyn.

“I wouldn’t have survived without Martin Coney,” Allen admits.

Here is her incubator. Each of them was made of steel and glass, and heated by a boiler. The thermostat regulated the temperature, and through another pipe fresh air entered the incubator, which was first purified through special filters.

At that time, this amusement park on Coney Island was wildly popular. Dr. Coney's attraction was called "The whole world loves a baby."

The famous park today

As Beth says, the doctors themselves advised her parents to seek help from Koni. Later, the rescued girl was brought to see Martin every year on Father's Day as a sign of gratitude. When the doctor died in 1950, the entire Allen family attended his funeral.

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