Neonatology on the Web

Coney Island Sideshow at Dreamland

Coney Island Sideshow at Dreamland

Martin Couney was the proprietor of “incubator baby exhibits” at many of the large Expositions and World’s Fairs at the turn of the 20th century, starting with the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha in 1898, and continuing through the New York World’s Fair of 1939. He also operated more permanent incubator sideshows at several amusement parks; the best known and documented are Dreamland and Luna Park at Coney Island, New York. According to news reports at that time, at least 8000 babies passed through the Coney Island incubators, and at least 6500 survived.

“The Incubator Building [at Dreamland]: here most of the premature babies of the Greater New York area are collected and nursed to health In incubator facilities superior to those of any hospital at the time, in a benevolent variation of the Frankenstein theme. To soften the radicalism of an enterprise that deals openly with the issue of life and death, the exterior of the building isdisguised as “an old German Farmhouse,~ on its roof ~a stork overlooking a nest of cherubs~- old mythology sanctioning new technology.

“Inside is an ultra·modern hospital divided Into two parts, “a large clean room where almost mollonless prematures doze In Incubators” and a nursery for the Incubator graduates” who have survived the first critical weeks of existence….

Martin Couney’s exhibit at Dreamland was similar to the Luna Park exhibit, but relatively short-lived. Dreamland, built in 1904 and one of Coney Island’s three amusement parks, was considered more “refined and orderly” than Luna Park and Steeplechase Park.

Source: The Fort Wayne Sentinel, August 6, 1904.

The Incubator building was one of the main attractions at Dreamland, and had an excellent location near the circus.

When a fire destroyed Dreamland in 1911, the babies were moved to the Luna Park incubator exhibit. Perhaps the first emergency transport of sick newborns on a large scale!

New York Times, May 28, 1911.

The incubators at Luna Park and Dreamland received plenty of free publicity in local newspapers over the years.

New York Times August 1, 1904.
New York Times, Sept. 4, 1904.

Martin Couney was also a dealer for the Kny-Scheerer Co. incubators, manufactured under license from Alexandre Lion, that he used in his exhibits. Evidently the “Incubator Company” was one of his DBAs.

Martin Arthur Couney

Martin Couney Exhibits in World’s Fairs and National Expositions

Martin Couney Sideshows in Amusement Parks

Recent Books

General Articles

General articles about Martin Couney and his exhibits are linked below. Additional links may be found in specific posts about his participation in expositions or sideshows.

Keep in mind that many of these were written before the full facts about Martin Couney’s background became known, or have not incorporated that new information, so they include information from his self-invented background legend.