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White City Amusement Park, Chicago

"Opened in 1905, White City was one of the South Side's most popular entertainment venues. The amusement park, which for many years overshadowed the North Side's Riverview Park as the city's favorite, was located at 63rd Street and South Parkway (now Martin Luther King Drive). White City's front gate sat just a few steps from the South Side Elevated, which made the park an attraction not just for South Siders, but for West and North Siders as well. Brightly lit at night by thousands of lights, the park was a dazzling sight to behold. But patrons were equally taken with White City's enjoyable attractions, including several roller coasters, a chute-the-chutes, two ballrooms, inexpensive eats, and its landmark Electric Tower. Though parts of the park remained in operation into the 1950s, most of White City was shut down in 1934, when financial difficulties sent the park into bankruptcy. The park's name -- White City -- was a reference to the monumental, Beaux Arts architectural style of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park."

-- "Jazz Age Chicago," © 2000 by Scott A. Newman.

The Incubator Baby exhibit at White City was yet another venture of Dr. Martin Couney, who had exhibits at many of the large world's fairs and expositions and amusement parks, in the early 20th century, including the Trans-Mississipi Exposition, the Paris World Exposition in 1900, the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the Panama-Pacific Exposition, the NY World's Fair, and Coney Island.

"The Incubator Doctor has had a fair number of wealthy children in his charge. Twenty-five years ago, when he was operating a branch establishment at White City, he had on exhibition -- anonymously, of course, like all the other babies -- the daughter of James Keeley, the renowned editor of the Chicago Tribune. Keeley was very proud of her, Dr. Couney says, and used to bring most of the sub-editors of the Tribune out to White City to look at her. A couple of years ago, Dr. Couney received an announcement of her wedding."

-- "A Patron of the Preemies," by A. J. Liebling, The New Yorker, June 3, 1939, pages 20-24.
From another contemporary account quoted on the "Living History of Illinois and Chicago" web site:

"This attraction is a great deal more than an exhibit - it is an educator. The Incubators are located in a beautiful structure at the southeast corner of the 'Board Walk.' This building is the only one on the grouns which has any color, being a dark red with white trimmings. It is built after the old colonial style and is most pretentious in its appointments."

"The tiny infants, only a few days old, and born into the world from one to three months ahead of the natural time, are put into the glass ovens which are kept at an even temperature, and supplied constantly with sterilized air by means of an automatic arrangement. The little ones seem to thoroughly enjoy their homes in the glass houses, and in the sweet sleep of infancy they create a fascinating picture."

"Thousands of lives have already been saved and it is only a question of time when the system will be universally adaopted."

"After a visit to this institution one will feel amply repaid for having seen the quaint, delightful little fellows whose appeal to the sympathies is always stronger because of their utter helplessness."


Below: Views of the Baby Incubator pavilion at the White City amusement park from old postcards.


Living History of Illinois and Chicago
Dr. Martin Couney
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Created 5/12/2007 / Last modified 1/21/2021
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