Dr. Couney's Baby Sideshow


The incubator building at the Lewis and Clark Exposition held at Portland, Oregon in 1905. OSU Special Collections & Archives/Public domain

Couney ran incubator sideshows, featuring premature babies. This is complicated -Couney was making money from these attractions, and his medical experience was questionable. But at the same time, premature babies weren’t getting a lot of care otherwise.

Here is the video Tracy mentioned during listener mail, "Why IS Blue So Rare In Nature?"

Tracy's Research:

  • Ackerknecht, Erwin H. “Incubator and Taboo.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January1946). Via JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24619540
  • Baker, Jeffrey P. “The Incubator and the Medical Discovery of the Premature Infant.” Journal of Perinatology 2000; 5:321–328.
  • Barry, Rebecca Rego. “Coney Island’s Incubator Babies.” JSTOR Daily. 8/15/2018. https://daily.jstor.org/coney-islands-incubator-babies/
  • Brangham, William. “How a Coney Island sideshow advanced medicine for premature babies.” PBS NewsHour. 7/21/2015. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/coney-island-sideshow-advanced-medicine-premature-babies
  • Prentice, Claire. “Miracle at Coney Island: How a Sideshow Doctor Turned Thousands of Babies and Transformed American Medicine.” 2016. Amazon Digital Services LLC.
  • Prentice, Claire. “The Man Who Ran a Carnival Attraction That Saved Thousands of Premature Babies Wasn’t a Doctor at All.” Smithsonian. 8/29/2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/man-who-pretended-be-doctor-ran-worlds-fair-attraction-saved-lives-thousands-premature-babies-180960200/
  • Reedy, Elizabeth A. “Care of Premature Infants.” Penn Nursing. https://www.nursing.upenn.edu/nhhc/nurses-institutions-caring/care-of-premature-infants/#targetText=When%20the%20first%20permanent%20hospital,established%20as%20a%20societal%20obligation.
  • Trezise, Bryoni. "Future Visions: A Pre-Performative History of Infant Theatricality." Theatre Journal, vol. 70 no. 1, 2018, p. 1-21. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/tj.2018.0001.

Topics in this Podcast: U.S. history, fraud, sideshows, babies, 20th century, medical history