The Wonderland Park at Lake Street and 31st Ave. in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was in operation from 1905-1912. One of its main attractions, the Infantorium, was a hospital-like facility filled with incubators containing premature babies. Parents were not charged and any child referred by a physician was eligible for treatment. The Infantorium is still standing and has been converted to an apartment building on the southeast corner of the intersection at 31st Avenue and 31st Street.

The Incubator Babies at Wonderland Park

A Scientific Exhibit of the Modern Method of Saving the Lives of Prematurely Born Infants Reared Under Glass and With Special Attention from Physicians and Trained Nurses, a Surprisingly Large Percentage Is Saved

The Minneapolis Journal, May 20, 1905, Page 10

It will not be long before everybody will be asking, "Have you seen the incubator babies?"

They are to constitute a feature at Twin City Wonderland amusement park, a feature by the way that will be in no sense a "show," but rather a scientific exhibit of life-saving. Tiny mites of humanity whose lives under no other conditions could be saved will be nursed to health and strength, every breath being carefully watched by trained nurses and intelligent physicians.

The exhibit is to be made in a two-story building on the lines of a handsome residence. It will be sanitary in every particular. The first floor will be devoted to a room in which the incubators, seven in number, will be exhibited. A room adjoining will be fitted up as a model nursery and a third is to be for demonstrations. The rooms upstairs are living quarters for the corps of physicians and trained nurses.

The physicians, by the way, are to be those who have had charge of similar exhibits at Earl's Court, London; the Trans-Mississippi exposition at Omaha and the Pan-American at Buffalo. Such exhibits will be made this year only at Luna park and Greenland, Coney Island; the White City, Chicago; Atlantic City, the Portland exposition and Minneapolis.

There is nothing of the "fake," catch-penny idea about the incubators. On the contrary, they are on a purely scientific basis, endorsed by the entire medical fraternity. The babies are all of premature birth, having come into this cold world, one, two or even three months before their time.

"How did they come to be in the incubators?" "Where do the doctors get them?" "Are they really alive, the same as other babies not reared in incubators?" are the natural questions asked of the lecturers, who explain the scientific principles of the apparatus, the method of treatment and other features. The public at the outset will have peculiar notions. The term "incubators" to the uninformed is apt to suggest something more than the rearing and preserving of life, and consequently is more or less confusing. The incubator is a glass enclosure of air space that can be kept exactly at uniform temperature under conditions best adapted to reduce the exertion of breathing to a minimum. The apparatus is not the most important feature by any means. Apart from trained nurses and wet nurses, the babies have the constant watchfulness of the physicians and at night as in the daytime are fed from the breast every two hours.

In the nursery there is a small pharmacy with contrivances for sterilizing milk, ingenious feeding bottles and scales so delicately constructed that an infant's progress can be minutely watched by weighing.

The first question as to how the babies come to be in the incubators can be answered by the assurance that they are sent by the advice of family physicians as the only chance for life-saving.

"Are they really alive?" Most assuredly so, the observer looking through the glass case can watch the little ones noting the expansion and contraction of the lungs as they breath, lying upon their beds of down.

"Whose babies are they?" That is the only question that will not be answered. Kindly consideration for mothers may necessitate a negative reply. The parentage of babies cuts no figure in their treatment. They may be orphans or foundlings, they may be of high or low degree. For example, milady of Portland avenue gives birth to a girl baby so weak and fragile that its chances of life under ordinary conditions and the best conditions, too, that medical science can supply in the aristocratic household has very little chance of living. What can be done? Milady's physicians suggest the incubator. If she is wise and adopts his suggestions, the infant aristocrat will be transferred from the mansion to the incubator at Wonderland.

The same thing applies to babies born in every other station of life, high or low, rich or poor, black or white. The doctors make no distinction.

All infants weighing less than two pounds three ounces die on the day of their birth. If the weight is from two pounds three ounces to three pounds five ounces, nearly half of them are saved by the aid of this apparatus.

If the weight is from three pounds five ounces to four pounds seven ounces, 72 per cent are saved.

If the weight is from four pounds seven ounces to five pounds nine ounces, 90 per cent are saved.

With children weighing more than five pounds nine ounces the percentage of mortality is so infinitesimal that practically all are saved.

The incubators and ventilating tubes are silvered, giving them a bright and cheerful appearance; inside, thru glass doors, may be seen the baby resting on a fine wire hammock, clean and comfortable, wrapped in a tiny spread, and tied around with either a pink or blue ribbon to designate its sex, looking for all the world like a dainty bonbon.

The temperature which is usually set at from 85 to 100 degrees is regulated by a delicate thermostat.

No charge is to be made for the care of infants and the only tax involved is the slight admission fee for spectators, which, while it bars the disinterested and undesirable, is essential to the proper conduct and maintenance of the exhibit itself. All they ask is that physicians and the public cooperate with them in this laudable work.

The number of prematurely born babies, physicians will tell you, is much larger than is generally supposed, averaging from fifteen to thirty in a hundred births. The medical profession regards infants as prematurely born that do not weigh more than five pounds nine ounces at birth. The number of deaths, until the introduction of the incubator system, was steadily increasing in a progressive ratio that seemed connected with the increased employment of women in industrial occupations. At any rate the time would appear to have come now to consider seriously any plan that offers to save these little lives and especially one that claims to save three-fourths of all placed in its care. To quote from the prospectus of the incubator institution: [article ends abruptly here]

Created 5/28/2006 / Last modified 5/28/2006
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