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Pan-American Exposition, 1901

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Pan-American Exposition, 1901

The Pan-American Exposition was held from May 1 to November 2, 1901, located on 342 acres in part of Delaware Park in Buffalo, New York. Nineteen nations and colonies participated, and the total attendance was 8,120,048. Tickets were 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. The show was not a financial success, with an estimated financial loss of $3,000,000. The fair is primarily remembered now for as the location of an presidential assassination. On September 5, 1901, President’s Day, President McKinley arrived to give a speech and visit the pavilions. He returned for an unscheduled, visit the next day and was shot by a socialist anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, outside the Temple of Music. He died 8 days later.

One of the advances in medical science on display at the Pan-American Exposition was the infant incubator. For ten cemts admission, the curious could enter this imposing 2-story building and see premature infants who were cared for here during the exposition. This was Martin Couney’s second major endeavor in the United States (his first was at the Trans-Mississipi Exposition in Omaha, Nebraska, 1898). According to contemporary accounts, his business partner for this exhibition was Samuel Schenken. Tickets were 25 cents. The exhibit was popular, and reportedly made a $25,000 profit over the six months of the exhibition.

Original caption: “In this neat and artistic brick building many children born prematurely are being received daily. Their lives are saved and they may thus grow up to be useful citizens. The building contains, on the first floor, an Incubator Ward, the Nursery, where the children are taken after removal from the incubators, and reception room. Photo by C. D. Arnold.
Staff in front of the Infant Incubator pavilion.

The exhibit received a great deal of national attention and was discussed in articles in Pediatrics, Cosmopolitan, and Scientific American, among others (links at bottom of page).

In a prominent position on the Midway, that part of the Pan-American Exposition almost wholly given over to the amusement of those frivolously inclined, is situated the building devoted to infant incubators. The building is of a decidedly picturesque construction. A “barker,” as is the case with all the shows of the Midway, promenades on the outside proclaiming in strident tones the especial merits of the incubator exhibit and drawing attention to the fact, that while it is conspicuous for the absence of any unpleasant features, at the same time it is of an eminently instructive and interesting nature and well calculated to provide many hints to mothers and to females generally in the successful rearing of weakly infants. — Pediatrics 12:414-419, 1901

The exhibit was in the news for other reasons as well.

On July 20, 1901, the Buffalo News reported that a baby had been prematurely born to Apache Indian Princess Ikishupaw and Chief Many Tales. Dr. Couney was called to the Indian Pavilion and had the infant placed in an exhibit incubator. The News reported that at 2 pounds, 2 ounces, it was the smallest baby ever born.

The twelve incubators used at this exhibition were made of metal and glass, manufactured by Kny-Sheerer or Paul Altmann (sources are unclear) under license from Dr. Alexandre Lion. Each infant was swaddled, a card above the incubator recorded details such as the baby’s birthdate, date of admission, and initials. The babies were fed and cleaned every two hours. At one time in August there were 18 exhibits being tended to. After the exposition, the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo purchased the Lion incubators.

Original caption: “This is one room in the Infant Incubators Building, the Incubator Ward, where infants are first placed when sent here. They are taken at the proper time from this room to the Nursery. There are eleven incubators in the ward, and two, or even three, infants may be placed in each incubator, if desired.” Photo by C. D. Arnold.
“A model nursery”. Source: Scientific American.
“Weighing an infant.” Source: Scientific American.
Feeding infant through the nose with a gavage spoon. Weight of child, 2 pounds 8 ounces. Source: Pediatrics 1901.
Babies and staff outside the incubator building.
Dr. Couney next to the incubator containing “Baby Qbata,” the premature offspring of Chief Many Tales and Princess Ishkipaw, Native American members of the 1901 Exposition’s “Indian Congress.” Source: Epoch Magazine.

The incubator exhibit received extensive coverage in the local press.

Source: Buffalo Enguirer, May 10, 1901.
Source: Buffalo Morning Express, July 12, 1901.
Source: Buffalo Times, November 10, 1901.
Source: Buffalo Times, November 10, 1901.

Dr. Couney did have occasional problems with overdue bills, landing him in court. This is one of several examples. Source: New York Times, November 7, 1901.

Source: New York Times, November 7, 1901

Below: The entry for the Incubator exhibit on the Midway Page in the official program for New York State Day.

Below: A birds-eye view of the exposition, and an exposition map.