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Miracle at Coney Island: How a Sideshow Doctor Saved Thousands of Babies and Transformed American Medicine (Kindle Single)
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Miracle at Coney Island: How a Sideshow Doctor Saved Thousands of Babies and Transformed American Medicine (Kindle Single)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,266 ratings  ·  139 reviews
How did thousands of premature infants come to be exhibited at America’s most popular amusement park?

In Miracle at Coney Island: How a Sideshow Doctor Saved Thousands of Babies and Transformed American Medicine, Claire Prentice uncovers the incredible true story of Martin Couney, the “incubator doctor.”

Couney ran his incubator facility for premature babies at Coney Islan
Kindle Edition, 95 pages
Published May 17th 2016
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3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,266 ratings  ·  139 reviews

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May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I came across this book after hearing, “My Life Under Glass” on Radio 4 – a documentary about Dr Martin Couney’s Infant Incubator exhibit, bizarrely situated at Coney Island. This is the story of how a sideshow doctor saved thousands of lives and transformed medicine, though exhibiting premature babies in a sideshow exhibit. From 1904 to 1943 the crowds flocked to see a medical miracle - while the parents of the babies were never charged for the care, the cost being met by the entrance fee, the ...more
Jul 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
A little dry in the presentation, with some aspects of the story being told multiple times, but you cannot help but be amazed at the miraculous story of the man who devoted his adult life to ensuring the survival of premature infants in the last 19th/early 20th century. My own son was a preemie at 30 weeks so I can only imagine the grief of a parent who was told by hospitals and doctors of the time to take them and let them die in peace. An interesting read.
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
This is quite an interesting story. Dr. Martin Couney was a pioneer in the incubation therapy of premature babies. He started out life as Martin Cohn, but eventually changed his name to Martin Couney when he emigrated to America in the late 1800s. Couney was also not a trained doctor, although many did not realize it. He made a name for himself by creating incubator shows at various worlds fairs, expos, and the boardwalks of Atlantic City and Coney Island, helping to save the lives of thousands ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really good info about the life of a dedicated man who, in a really unusual way, saved babies from what would be certain death. He was a pioneer, and an unusual one at that.
Well written. Easy to understand. Insightful.
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Ever since I saw a segment about this on Mysteries at the Museum, I’ve been intrigued by the story of the incubator babies at Coney Island.

This book is a great introduction to the story of the babies and the man who created the show to help thousands of babies. This books covers more than 50 years of the trials and successes Martin Couney had while trying to convince the world that premature babies were worth saving.

Highlights of the book include biographical history of Couney, the strict condi
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read.
Karna Converse
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-on-kindle
Interesting look at a man who brought life and recognition of life to those born prematurely and an enlightening look at medicine and society in the early 1900's.

Babies born prematurely at the turn of the 20th century had little chance of survival. Most mothers gave birth in their homes; hospitals were only used by the poor who couldn't pay for a house call; and because 15 and 20% of those born did not make it to their first birthday, neither doctors nor hospitals gave much priority to those bor
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it
This was an interesting story about the “dr” to invented incubators for nicus. It got repetitive but was still a good read. One of nurses is Evelyn lundeen who was part of the innovation and it makes me super curious if we’re related!
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is so cool to learn about a man who saved so many premature babies. It's amazing how much he had to go through to prove himself and the success of his incubation process. The book was a little dry at times, but it was so worth pushing through!
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Becca, Vicky
Excellent writing, great storytelling. What a treat to find this morsel of American history not widely known!
The author asks at one point, "Was he a visionary or an opportunist? An evangelist or a showman?" To wit I answer, He was a visionary who saw a need AND saw the way to fill the need!
My personal opinion is that he was doing God's work, expanding life and ancestry lines. Even though he wasn't a deeply religious man, God used him to get the job done that needed doing!

"In spite of his human
Jennifer Vogel
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
What do preemie babies, Coney Island, and World's Fairs have in common? Dr. Martin Couney. In the late 1800s, most doctors didn't even think premature infants were worth trying to save, but Dr. Couney did. Some have described him as an anti-eugenisist. When most of the medical community thought of preemies as a waste of resources, Dr. Couney sought to educate. He cared for some of the most vulnerable babies utilizing incubators of his own design and did so with no expense for the parents. How? T ...more
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Who knew that from the late 19th thru the mid 20th century thousands of premature babies were exhibited at side shows and fairs to anyone willing to cough up the price of admission? I didn’t! Many people considered this revolting exploitation but before this practice, virtually every baby born early just... died. Doctors had no idea how to treat them and weren’t sure it was worth the effort anyway. These exhibitions paid for the then super expensive incubators and round the clock nursing and pav ...more
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I can't tell you how many times I've read about these babies at Coney Island and elsewhere while reading other things, whether it was books or magazine articles, or encyclopedias. So when I saw this book on the 'doctor' who started all this, of course, I grabbed it. The book didn't disappoint too much. It was very interesting...I'm always amazed at the types of things that people got away with prior to even the 1960's. Considering I've read so much about eugenics and the Nazis (and written about ...more
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you are the least bit curious how modern medicine made strides in premature infant care, this is the book to read. Claire Prentice the history of Martin Couney and his incubators Carnival show. You will be astounded at his success and you will be horrified how long it took before the American Medical world finally caught on to what he was doing and even longer before they started implementing his methods. Mr. Couney saved a lot of babies of all genders, nationalities and race and their parent ...more
Valeri Drach
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I like Claire Prentice's non fiction books about famous Coney Island side shows very much. The Lost Tribe of Coney Island unmasked a horrible showman who exploited native people from the Philippines. The latest from her is about a showman that did great work and saved thousands of premature infants from the beginning of the 20th Century until the 1940s. All of them the children of people who couldn't afford long hospital stays. If you like learning about old New York this is the book for you!
Judy A. Ptacek
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Incubator history

Detailed history of how the incubator for premature infants was introduced to medical doctors and the public first as a sideshow at expositions. There was no cost to the parents because the entrance fee covered the cost of the medical staff. In a time where premature infants were considered to week to survive, the the incubator gave the tiny babies a good chance to live.
Christopher Enzi
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Preemies on the Midway!

Awesome! I had heard references to Martin Couney's exhibitions of premature infants for years and always been curious about how this had all happened. Fortunately for me, Claire Prentice did the research for me, then wrote it all out in an engaging narrative. My only beef- she doesn't mention when Archie Leach worked as a barker but makes mention of it in a chapter Ser in 1901.
Shannon kaleikilo
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well worth reading very interesting, I love reading stories about the past.

Dr. Or not Dr. Martin Couney deserves so much credit for saving so many premature babies and opening the eyes of Americans that every life deserves a chance.
Rachael Cox
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-on-2016
Very interesting to see how a man could use a sideshow to create waves in the medical community in order to advocate for premature babies.
Donn Headley
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is one of those rare books one reads more for the captivating story than for the quality of story-telling. "Dr." Martin Couney was a pioneer in developing medical technology and techniques for the care of premature infants beginning at the very end of the nineteenth century and carrying on into the World War II years. And how he did this was shocking to our modern sensibilities: he built incubators, placed preemie babies in them, and then put them on display at side-shows, expositions and f ...more
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Although I had one baby who needed to spend some time in an incubator, it had never crossed my mind to wonder about the history of such a life-saving device. And if I had, I probably would not have believed the story of how they came to be popularized.

Preemies displayed side-by-side with a freak show (or exotic dancer) at a huge amusement park? And people pay money to come see them? Yup. This is the story of Dr. Martin Couney (who apparently wasn't really a doctor) who saved thousands of prematu
Barbara M
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating true story about the advent of incubators for premature babies. Hospitals did not have incubators until the the late 1940s/early 1950s. Prior to that time, there was no real effort to save premature babies and they were sent home with their mothers most often to die.

Dr. Couney started a sideshow in Coney Island featuring real premature babies in incubators which he designed. He also set up a show of premature babies in incubators at the World's Fair in the 30s. He claimed an 85% suc
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I grabbed this as a free prime loaner from Amazon, thinking it was simply a short fiction story, never looking at the description just choosing because is was a "kindle short." I just started the preface and realized it is a true story.

It was Coney Island in the early 1900’s. Beyond the Four-Legged Woman, the sword swallowers, and “Lionel the Lion-Faced Man,” was an entirely different exhibit: rows of tiny, premature human babies living in glass incubators. Barkers, including a young Cary Grant,
Arianne Askham
Oct 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Wonderful Story, Okay Writing

What an amazing story. Having a NICU baby of my own, I’ve actually held off on reading this book for over two years until I felt ready to relive some of those emotions. Truthfully, it doesn’t go into the details about the babies and their individual prognosis in a way that would be traumatic, the writing is focused more on Couney himself. And the story is just an amazing blip in history that deserves to be read and shared.

What was a little disappointing to me was th
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Did you know that the first official neonatal care facility in an official hospital was not until 1939 and was at Cornell University?

HOWEVER, 40 years earlier, neonatal care facilities were part of Fairs, Expositions, Atlantic City Boardwalk, and Coney Island! Pay a nickle and see amazing babies in incubators. Barkers would stand outside and encourage midway goers to enter to see the wonder of science! And right next door would be a barker encouraging you to enter and see their burlesque show. A
May 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This kindle single was a very fast and fascinating read for me. I had never even heard about the incubator babies at Coney Island before so everything in this short book was very interesting to me. It's actually quite amazing how all of these premature babies were being cared for amidst an amusement park setting. I'm very grateful that medical care for preemies has changed since the setting of this book. I would have given this book a higher rating if it hadn't been so repetitious. There were ma ...more
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Good Story Written Poorly

The story of Couney and the incubator babies is fascinating, but it is told so poorly here, it really takes away from it. Many sections feel like complete repeats, as the author goes through a summary of each newspaper article from the same event or show. She also contradicts her own title, by saying other physicians from the time probably brought much greater change for preemies. At least it was a nice short read or else I don’t think I would have finished.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
A bit dry at times, but this is a really interesting story. A man by several names found a way to save what had been deemed "unsavable" and he did it while turning a profit for himself. He built a comfortable life for himself, yet it seems he may not have been completely honest about what the details to that life were. Nobody seemed to ever question him even though many people were busy criticizing him. How he went undetected and achieved success is remarkable. No matter what, the end result of ...more
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing medical history

This bio is a wonderful read for any person interested in history, medicine, world fairs or infants. As a glimpse into our fascination with the unusual, it is a telling story of "archaic" medicine of the early 205th century. Well written, easy to read, you have to put it down. Impressive research. It is a shame more "incubator babies" we're never interviewed for historical value. Archival pictures would be a valuable addition. Immensely enjoyable read. Thank you!
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“Recht was destined to become his tireless assistant, sounding board, and guarantor of Cohen’s legitimacy.” 0 likes
“The best medical minds in New York couldn’t come up with a workable model to save these vulnerable babies. Yet, 40 years earlier, a young immigrant from Europe who likely had no qualifications had done just that and turned a handsome profit.” 0 likes
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