Long Beach Archives - StoryCorps

Lucille Horn and Barbara Horn

For decades, Brooklyn’s Coney Island was known for sideshows featuring tattooed ladies, sword swallowers, and Dr. Martin Couney’s incubator babies.

Dr. Couney pioneered the use of incubators to keep premature infants alive in the late 1800s. But the medical establishment initially rejected the practice. So, each summer for 40 years, Dr. Couney funded his work by setting up an exhibition of the babies and charging the public admission.

Parents didn’t have to pay for the medical care, and many children survived who would have never had a chance otherwise.

Ninety-five-year-old Lucille Horn was one of them. Here, she tells her daughter, Barbara, about spending the summer of 1920 in an incubator on Coney Island.

Originally aired July 10, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo of the outside of the exhibition courtesy of Beth Allen.