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Amsterdamse Wereldtentoonstelling van 1895

Amsterdamse Wereldtentoonstelling van 1895

The Amsterdam World Exposition of 1895 was the third in a series of expositions with different focuses at the end of the nineteenth century. The International Colonial and Export Trade Exposition [Internationale Koloniale en Uitvoerhandel Tentoonstelling] was held from May 1 to October 1, 1883. It drew over a million visitors, and was the first international colonial exposition, with 28 nations presenting their colonial trade and wealth. The second was a Food and Agricultural Exposition [Tentoonstelling van Voedingsmiddelen] held from June to September 1887. The third was a Hotel and Travel Industry Exposition [Wereldtentoonstelling voor het Hotel- en Reiswezen] from May to October in 1895. The expositions were held on unused land behind the Rijksmuseum, which is now the Museumplein Square.

Building on the success of his exhibit at the Lyon Exposition of 1894, Dr. Alexandre Lion had another incubator baby exhibit in the Amsterdam Exposition of 1895. According to Drs. Thijs Gras’s research of contemporary primary accounts in Dutch, published in an article in Ons Amsterdam in 2020, Lion was also occupied with an Exposition in Bordeaux at the same time, so the Amsterdam exhibit was managed by his deputy director, Auguste Narçon, who arranged for the construction of a small wooden pavilion. The exhibit had five incubators and was staffed by two ticket sellers, a security guard, and two Dutch nurses. Several infants of the infants were obtained from Gerrit Hendrik van der Mey, a professor of obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Amsterdam, and another one was brought directly to the exhibit immediately after birth.

According to Drs. Gras, press reaction was mixed. Some criticized the incubator building’s admission fee of 25 cents, on top of the 50 cent entrance fee for the exposition. One reporter called into question the appropriateness of exhibiting babies in a barracks on a fairground, while a few wondered about the wisdom of helping “weaklings” survive. Two other periodicals praised the exhibit, calling it “a most remarkable triumph of science” and “the first step on a long road of conveniences for the humanity of the future.”

The last infants left the incubator exhibit in November 1895. Dr. Lion won a Grand Prix from the Exposition in the category of “Chemical and pharmaceutical substances, dressings, and medical devices.”

Above: Cover of the souvenir booklet distributed at Dr. Lion’s incubator exhibit in 1895.

Last Updated on 12/31/22