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Berliner Gewerbeausstellung 1896

Berliner Gewerbeausstellung 1896

The incubator baby exhibit (“Der Kinder-Brutanstalt”) at the Berlin Industrial Show (“Berliner Gewerbeausstellung”) in 1896 was held in the Treptower Park. It received more international publicity than its predecessors in Lyon (1894) and Amsterdam (1895), and it spawned many imitators, including the sideshows at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition, the Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition, the Pan American Exposition, the New York World’s Fair, and Coney Island.

The drawing above is from a German newspaper, the similar engraving below is from the Illustrated London News.

The exhibit had six incubators. It was organized and managed by Dr. Alexandre Lion, who had been caring for premature infants in incubators of his own design and charging admission to subsidize his nurseries in Nice, Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, and Bordeaux since at least 1891. Although Martin Couney claimed in later years that he had managed the exhibit on behalf of Pierre Budin, the contemporary news item in the Official Exhibit News and a story in the Illustrated London News both indicate that the exhibitor was Alexandre Lion.

“The Children’s Incubation Institute continues to arouse lively interest amongst the visitors to the trade exhibition and has spurned the invitation to become a permanent institution in Berlin, we were told. A committee, which is in the process of being formed, includes some renowned professors, amongst them one of the most influential gynecologists in Berlin, and has taken it upon itself to find the necessary financial means to found such an infants’ asylum. It will be modeled after the Children’s Incubation Center at the exhibition. It will house mainly weak and prematurely born children in the incubator constructed by Mr Lion. Mr Lion announced to the committee that he will donate the necessary incubators for this asylum. A brochure readily available for distribution since yesterday afternoon contains interesting data regarding the stigmata of prematurely born children and an exact description of Mr Lion’s incubator and its use. In addition, the pamphlet includes evaluations by Privy Counselor Professor Gusserow, medical director of the University Women’s Clinic, and by Professor Rudolph Virchow. Both scholars endorse the value of the Lion’s incubator through their expert opinions especially composed for this brochure, as does the renowned Berlin neurologist Professor Albert Eulenburg, who during a visit to the French Riviera, came across the ‘Maternite Lion’ in Nice.” — Translated from the “Official Exhibit News” (1896) by Julia Whitefield, MD, PhD, and quoted in “Martin Couney’s Story Revisited,” Pediatrics 100(1):159-160, July 1997.

A map of the exhibition and some contemporary photographs are found below.

Main Gate of the Berlin Industrial Exhibition, 1896.

Last Updated on 01/04/23