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Marseille Colonial Exposition, 1906

Marseille Colonial Exposition, 1906

The Marseille Colonial Exposition of 1906 was the third colonial exposition organized in France, after Rouen in 1896 and Rochefort-sur-Mer in 1898. The exposition was open from April 15 to November 18, 1906. There were over 1,800,000 visitors, mostly from France of course, who came to see pavilions and indigenous peoples from the French Colonies in Indo-China, West Africa, Madagascar, Tunisia, and Algeria. Large greenhouses exhibited exotic plants including orchids, palms, cycads, pandanus, coffee trees, cocoa trees, rubber plants, etc.

While no pictures of an incubator pavilion have been found to date, we know that Alexandre Lion had an incubator baby exhibit at this exposition, as attested by contemporary press coverage and the usual souvenir postcards.

Source: La Petit Marseillais, September 20, 1906,

The children’s incubator, which is one of the most curious attractions as well as the most instructive, obtained a considerable success at the colonial exhibition, where it was installed to the right of the Grand-Palais. The public can currently see eight little babies who are given life artificially and who were sent on the recommendation of doctors. We recommend that visitors to the Colonial Exhibition do not neglect to see the children’s incubator.

Source: Le Feu, Numero de l’exposition coloniale, Marseille, August 1, 1906.

In this pavilion located to the right of the Grand Palais, one finds the little angels in a hurry to leave the maternal cradle before the end of natural laws.
As soon as they appeared, they were received by benevolent hands who placed them in artificial cradles where they find the uniform temperature of their first nest. these premature fruits fallen from the tree of life ripen little by little in the gentle, warm heat of the incubators.
This work of the Lion incubators (this is the name of the learned founder-director) is truly admirable; it saves a proportion of the 80% otherwise doomed to death. (Excerpt from the bulletin of the Academy of Medicine, November 12, 1895.)
The incubator consists of a metal cage with a glass frame at the front. The heating, inside the incubator, is produced by a circulation of heated water in a coil communicating with a tank placed next to it. The thermosiphon can be heated either by gas, oil or electricity.
The invariability of the temperature is ensured automatically by means of a very ingenious regulator. Pure air filtered by a very simple hydraulic system, invented by Mr. Lion, comes to oxygenate the children’s lungs; the old air disappears through an ad hoc chimney.
Toddlers are breastfed regularly in an adjoining room heated to 25 degrees.
When, during the first days, premature infants do not have the strength to suckle, they are fed through the nose with sterilized formula or mother’s milk, using a special spoon.
A sheet of temperature, placed above each incubator, indicates daily the triple curve of the rectal temperature and the weight of the child, and the temperature of the incubator.
This summary description can give only a faint idea of the operation of incubators.
Young girls and mothers, go learn in this little pavilion. Your heart will be deliciously moved and your brain will be satisfied with a new scientific acquisition.

Last Updated on 05/07/23