The Baby Incubators were one of the Pike's few scientific displays. The building, with its two large towers and open court
was one of the few fire-proof attractions on the Pike.
The Red Cross estimated that 17-40% of infants (at the time), so this attraction was not only interesting but even vital to fairgoers.
"See the mites of humanity whose lives are being preserved by this wonderful method," stated the newspaper advertisements for the Pike.
There were twenty four `modern' incubators shown in this exhibit. Each machine was an air-tight silver-framed glass box. Hot air was pumped underneath the floorboards to keep the room's temperature constant. By artificial means (which included regulation of oxygen and ventilation), the incubator helped an immature and feeble infant, acclimatize to the outside world. Ten trained nursed, under the guidance of three physicians, cared for the infants, who were separated from fairgoers by a wall of plate glass.
Premature babies from St. Louis hospitals were driven in ambulances in incubators on springs.
An average of 25 babies were on display at one given day, while four lecturers would inform the crowd about the process on how the machines were heated and ventilated, and talked about various statistics pertaining to the care of the very young.
The babies whose health improved as to not need the incubators were placed in small enamel beds and
After viewing the immature babies, visitors could buy a souvenir soap baby and have lunch at the Incubator Cafe.
An abandoned premature infant was found in St. Louis by a police officer and brought to the incubator
babies attraction. After the abandoned baby was placed in an incubator, the police officer brought
his new bride to the Fair many times stopping to observe the baby’s progress.
On Dec. 1, 1904, the day the Fair ended, the couple adopted the baby and named her Frances
after David Rowland Francis, the Exposition president.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, premature babies became a sideshow exhibit. Visitors would pay to walk through rows of tiny babies in incubators. Hospitals had little regard for premature babies, which they described as being "weaklings."
In St. Louis, the Fair concessions committee decided to shop the attraction to vendors who would offer them the highest cut of profits, instead of quality care. They hired Edward Bayliss, a well-connected local businessman, who hired a doctor to run the Baby Incubator attraction. The man knew little about caring for premature infants.
The caretakers fed the premature infants on cow's milk, cereal and egg. Infants were vomiting and having diarrhea. The machines were overheating. The conditions were filthy. Out of 43 babies, supposedly 39 soon died.
Letters of complaint from the director of the St. Louis Humane Society were sent to David R. Francis, criticizing the money over care practice. The attraction was allowed to continue, but Martin Couney, (whose Incubator attractions had a had a survival rate of 85%, published an highly critical open letter in the New York Evening Journal."
A new doctor- Dr. John Zahorsky, took over managing the attraction, and although sanitary and better medical practices lessened the death rate, the horrors still lingered in the public's eye. People now had a fear of hospitals, and made people were frightened of from using incubators that could save may premature babies' lives.
This information was obtained from the article: AISHA SULTAN | St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Associated Press | Published: October 19, 2019