Shared from the 2017-02-25 Chattanooga eEdition

Infant who survived in 1920s sideshow incubator dies at 96

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Lucille Conlin Horn weighed barely 2 pounds when she was born, a perilous size for any infant, especially in 1920. Doctors told her parents to hold off on a funeral for her twin sister who had died at birth, expecting she too would soon be gone.

But her life spanned nearly a century after her parents put their faith in a sideshow doctor at Coney Island who put babies on display in incubators to fund his research to keep them alive.

Th e B ro o k ly n - b o r n woman, who later moved to Long Island, died Feb. 11 at age 96, according to the Hungerford & Clark Funeral Home. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Horn was among thousands of premature babies who were treated in the early 20th century by Dr. Martin Couney. He was a pioneer in the use of incubators who sought acceptance for the technology by showing it off on carnival midways, fairs and other public venues. He never accepted money from the tiny babies’ parents but instead charged oglers admission to see the babies struggling for life.

Horn and her twin were born prematurely. She said in 2015 that when her sister died, doctors told her father to hold off on a funeral because she wouldn’t survive the day.

“He said, ‘Well, that’s impossible. She’s alive now. We have to do something for her,’” Horn said. “My father wrapped me in a towel and took me in a cab to the incubator. I went to Dr. Couney. I stayed with him quite a few days, almost five months.”

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