Candy & WWII pt.2


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The following continues the discussion of WWII’s impact on the candy industry. Here we’ll see how: advertisements addressed the wartime civilian candy shortage, the manufacturers of bakery equipment changed gears in wartime and Americans were encouraged to alter their consumption of meat.

While candy was being shipped overseas for military consumption, advertisements for many candies, such as the ones below, emphasized the industry’s the struggle to manufacture adequate amounts for both serviceman and civilians in a time of rationing and reduced production.


Blumenthal Bros advertisement, from 1945, thanking customers for their patience during wartime conditions.


An entire Necco advertisement from 1943 devoted to explaining wartime conditions.


Another Necco advertisement from 1943 emphasizing the benefits that Necco candies provides civilian workers and soldiers.


Yet another Necco advertisement from 1943 mentioning the war.


Necco wasn’t the only candy company sending rations overseas. According to this advertisement (also from 1943), Reeds sent nearly all of their candy to fighting troops.


Soliders also had the option to munch on Chicken Dinner and Denver Sandy Bars according to this 1943 Sperry Candy Company advertisement.

During WWII, many manufacturers of bakery and confectionery machinery also switched gears and instead, began to manufacture products beneficial for the war effort. This Greer advertisement from 1943 demonstrates the re-purposing of their conveyor lines to help stock military ships with ammunition.


Instead of creating conveyors for confectionery factories, Greer helped the war effort by using their popular conveyors to load ammunition into war ships.

WWII’s impact on American diets stretched well outside the realm of sugar. Read meat was also in short supply, most of it being sent overseas to fuel fighting troops. With the citizen supply limited, Americans were encouraged to eat their meat sparingly. This advertisement issued by the American Meat Association, encourages American’s to “share the meat” so that everyone might get a portion.


As more and more meat products began shipping overseas to fighting troops, civilians at home were encouraged to ration their meat consumption. This pamphlet produced by the American Meat Institute stresses the moral duty of of Americans to be more sparing in their meat consumption to give all “an equal chance at the available meat supply.”

Between the years of 1942-45 the National Research Council established the Committee on Food Habits. The Committee’s goal was to “restructure social norms, change perceptions of taste, and help assimilate variety into the U.S. diet” (Wansink). A specific mission was to encourage Americans to accept alternative sources of protein in their diet. Organ-meats not traditionally consumed by Americans, such as kidneys, brains and hearts, were promoted as viable sources of protein. The concerns addressed within this advertisement and the Committee on Food Habits concerning protein intake are also reflected in candy advertisements of the era. Many, like the following advertisement for the Staley Company promote the consumption of candy by specifically touting its protein content.


With meat being in short supply, Americans were encouraged to find protein in alternative sources. Candy companies tried to persuade consumers that candy could provide protein for those in need.

Blumenthal Bros Chocolate Products. “BB Chocolate Products Have a War Role Too!” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 71 (May 1945): 21.
———. “BB Chocolate Products Have a War Role Too!” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 71 (May 1945): 21.
D. L Clark Company. “Two Quick Selling Items.” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 69 (January 1943): 34.
Greer Company. “Now…Greer Conveyors Hoist the Ammunition.” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 69 (April 1943).
NECCO. “Memo from Necco.” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 69 (January 1943): 34.
———. “Necco Candies on the March!” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 69 (March 1943): 37.
———. “Necco Candies On the March.” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 69 (February 1943): 33.
Reed’s Candy Company. “On Active Duty.” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 69 (July 1943): 39.
Share the Meat. Chicago, United States: American Meat Institute, 1943.
Sperry Candy Company. “They Deserve the Finest.” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 69 (June 1943): 41.
Wansink, Brian. “Changing Eating Habits on the Home Front: Lost Lessons from
World War II Research.” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 21, no. 1
(Spring 2002): 90-99.

Candy Consumption & WWII


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Throughout the length and breadth of the candy makers’ art we find products in use that contain the five dietary essentials; carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins. It is true that they may not occur in optimum proportions in any one candy type, but to expect that they should is seeking Utopia, which is rarely if ever achieved.

The following images appeared in the Confectioner’s Journal in 1943, two years after the United States joined WWII. Involvement in the war affected the daily lives of all Americans. Food was rationed; commodities like sugar and coffee were not longer easily accessible through the local grocer. The candy industry, too, felt the impact of war. Not only were many ingredients used by confectioners now scarce, but candy, considered a non-essential component of a healthy diet, found itself an easy candidate for Americans seeking to eliminate all unnecessary foods from their plates. The article and advertisements below argue for candy’s importance, claiming it a useful addition to the human diet and highlighting its presence in military rations.

“Candy’s Place in the Diet,” describes the nutritional value of various candy types (e.g. hard candy, fudge types etc.) and aims to show that “candy is a good and wholesome food” which “should have its niche in the dietary structure.” Interestingly, the Editor’s Note which prefaces the piece claims the article “contains data confectioners will find useful in ‘selling’ their industry.”


“Candy’s Place in the Diet,” an article published in the June 1943 issue of Confectioner’s Journal, explains the nutritional benefits of various types or candy.


“Candy’s Place in the Diet” continued.


“Chocolate is a fighting food!” This announcement from the Confectioner’s Journal informs civilians of new restrictions and warns them of shortages of their favorite treats. In addition to the rationing of essential ingredients in candy bar manufacturing, many candy bars were sent overseas as part of soliders’ D-Ration packs.


This advertisement for H. Kohnstam, a manufacturing for food dyes and flavors, also portrays candy as an essential part of the solider’s daily diet. From Confectioner’s Journal.


Another H. Kohnstamm advertisement from Confectioner’s Journal noting candy’s wartime importance.

“H. Kohnstamm & Company.” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 69 (July 1943): 21.
“H.Kohnstamm & Company.” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 69 (September 1943): 22.
Jordan, J. Stroud, Dr. “Candy’s Place in the Diet.” Confectioner’s Journal 69 (June 1943): 8-10.
“Lamont, Corliss and Company.” Advertisement. Confectioner’s Journal 69 (June 1943): 13.

Helpful Kitchen Tips from 1915

The following infographics were created by the United States Department of Agriculture and published in the Ladies’ Home Journal circa 1915. “What am I Feeding My Family?” (directly below) was created by C.F. Langworthy (1864-1932), a chemist who according to his obituary, “was for many years, one of the foremost workers on America nutritional problems.” He eventually became the chief of the Office of Home Economics, the predecessor of the Bureau of Home Economics where he ran an experimental kitchen focused on studying household foods.

Infographic from 1915 displaying the nutritional breakdown of commonly used cooking ingredients.


Also from 1915, this infographic from the USDA educates readers how to determine the freshness of eggs for cooking.

Dr. C.F. langworthy dies. 1932. The Washington Post (1923-1954), Mar 05, 1932.
“How You Can Tell a Fresh Egg.” Ladies’ Home Journal, January 1915, 35.
Langworthy, C.F. “What am I feeding my family?” Ladies’ Home Journal, April 1915, 23.

Nom nom, Campbell’s


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Warhol soup can courtesy of Artnet.

I’ve been eating a lot of Campbell’s Lentil Soup recently (i.e. nearly every night) and thought I would post some cool Campbell’s advertisements from the 1910s , 20s and 40s.

The history of Campbell’s is pretty interesting too. Although Campbell’s Soup is widely known and regarded as a staple “comfort food,” not many people know much about the company itself. Campbell’s was actually started in 1869 in Camden, New Jersey (close to Atlantic City!).  Initially a small canning factory, the first products manufactured by Campbell’s weren’t even soup; french peas, fancy asparagus and beefsteak tomatoes were the first things rolling off the production line. Eventually, the company expanded to condiments, soups, jellies and vegetables.

Campbell’s didn’t even specialize in soup production until a man named John Dorrance joined the company in 1897. A chemical engineer and organic chemist, Dorrance invented a condensed soup that could be sold at a third of the cost of Campbell’s competitors who were still producing and shipping heavy uncondensed soup. With this innovation, Campbell’s was able to sell their soup for less, beat out many competitors and eventually expand into California, becoming one of the first products available nationwide. Owing to the popularity of condensed soup, Campbell’s soon phased out other lines and instead concentrated solely on its canned soup line. In 1922, the company officially added the word soup to their name becoming the Campbell’s Soup Company. As you can see from the advertisements, the Campbell’s Soup lineup has changed over the years. The popularity of varieties such as  “Mock Turtle” and “Ox-Tail” (yum) soup seems to have declined over the last century. Here’s a list of current “Classic Favorites” available from Campbell’s for comparison. You can also see that the price has steadily increased. It appears to have been 10 cents a can in the 1910s and then increased 2 cents by the next decade. Now, I am lucky if I can get my Campbell’s for 99 cents!

Nowadays, Campbell’s is the number one soup maker in the world and controls 69 percent of the United States soup market and and dominates in Europe as well.
FUN FACT: I consumed 3 cans of lentil soup throughout the construction of this post. (It’s been more than one day.)


Campbell’s advertisement – Ladies’ Home Journal, April 1915


Campbell’s advertisement – Ladies’ Home Journal, January 1915


Campbell’s advertisement – Saturday Evening Post, July 29, 1922


Campbell’s advertisement – Saturday Evening Post, August 26, 1922


Campbell’s advertisement – LIFE Magazine, September 24, 1945

“Campbell Soup Company.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. Ed. Thomas Carson and Mary Bonk. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 136-137. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Feb. 2013.
Gasbarre, April Dougal, and David E. Salamie. “Campbell Soup Company.” International Directory of Company Histories. Ed. Jay P. Pederson. Vol. 71. Detroit: St. James Press, 2005. 75-81. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Feb. 2013.
Ladies’ Home Journal
LIFE Magazine
Saturday Evening Post

Yeehaw, It’s Big Tex!


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Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 12.34.25 AM

Image from The Rotarian.

Last year, on October 19, the State Fair of Texas opened for its final weekend of the 2012 season. The morning started out like any other. Big Tex, the giant 52 foot cowboy, stood at the fair’s entrance, greeting patrons with his grotesquely giant face and southern drawl, “Howwwwdy Y’aaaall!” The ever-friendly Big Tex had much to celebrate this year; it was his 60th birthday, but little did he know it would be his last. At around 10:30am flames engulfed the giant cowboy’s body. Twenty minutes later, when firefighters managed to subdue the flames, a burnt metal framework was all that remained. A few days later, these remains were somberly hauled from the fairgrounds. According to officials, the fire originated in Big Tex’s right boot and quickly spread, devouring his entire body.


Big Tex gesticulating to fair patrons in the last years of his life. Photo courtesy of Ann Serrano.

BigTex Burning

Big Tex still gesticulating while being ravaged by flames in 2012. From Wikimedia Commons.

While many have seen the photos of Big Tex’s gory surmise—photographs and videos of his last moments quickly spread online—many who gawked never had the chance to know him. Where did he come from? What was he like in his younger years? This post describes the life of Big Tex, from his humble beginnings to his tragic demise.

Big Tex Young

Big Tex as Santa Claus in Kerens, Texas. From Dallas Business Journal.

Big Tex came into existence in 1949 not as a cowboy, but as a pink-cheeked Santa Claus in the small Texas town of Kerens, located in the northeast part of the state. A year later, Dallas resident R. L. Thornton saw Tex and purchased him from the Kerens Chamber of Commerce for a mere $750 with plans of using him in the State Fair’s Christmas celebration. It was decided, however, that the four-story tall Santa had greater potential–he could be a cowboy! Artist Jack Bridges was hired to transform the small town Santa into the legendary Big Tex. The transformation involved some facial reconstructive surgery—Santa’s pink cheeks and winking eyeball had to go—and a new outfit. Big Tex’s original ensemble, created with real material and provided by Lee, cost $2,200 at the time and did not include the cowboy’s signature 75-gallon cowboy hat. Instead, during his first year at the fair, Big Tex opted for a sombrero. Not a fan of changing clothes, Tex generally wore the same outfit three to four seasons before getting refitted. At the time of his death, Big Tex was outfitted in a Dickie’s workshirt and Dickie’s belt buckle.

Big Tex

Big Tex in 1956. From Wikimedia Commons.

During Big Tex’s first year at the State Fair, he was quite shy. Standing before the entrance, he spoke not a word the entire season. It wasn’t until 1953 that Tex warmed up and began to greet fair patrons. After, according to an Austin American Statesman article from 1953, “months of research, 300 pounds of electronic and mechanical equipment and eight weeks of work,” Jack Bridges (the same artist who worked on the original transformation) succeeded in giving Tex the ability to waggle his jaw and speak. But who would voice him? Jim Lowe Jr. was the first voice of Big Tex. A radio DJ and announcer, he took the job in 1953 and continued speaking for Big Tex (whose script is never recorded, but read live for 12 hours a day, everyday) for the next 47 years until 1999. Since 2002, Tex has been voiced by Bill Bragg, whose website features recordings of the giant cowboy.

For 60 years Big Tex stood at the entrance of the Texas State Fair looming over all who entered the fair grounds. Throughout these decades he has become a state-wide celebrity and a fixture in the memories of many children and adults alike.

Distraught at the passing of beloved Big Tex? Plans are already in the works for Big Tex 2.0. Construction for the new Tex is expected begin this month, and hoped to be completed before the fair’s 2013 season.

Allen, Austin F. “Howdy Folks! Ya’ll Come!” Rotarian, Febraury 1958, 8.

Briggs, Olin. “Big Tex: verteran cowboy who began as Santa Claus.” Dallas Times Herald, October 17, 1974.

Carlisle, Candace. “Big Tex asks for a handout, issues holiday greeting.” Dallas Business Journal, December 27, 2012.

Greene A. C. “Birth of Big Tex.” Dallas Morning News, October 14, 1983.

Obituaries; jim lowe jr.; radio announcer, voice of big tex. 2000. Los Angeles Times, Jun 05, 2000.

“ ‘Tex’ to Talk at State Fair This Year,” Austin American Statesman, September 27, 1953.

Tolbert, Frank X. “50-Footer ‘Tex’ Readied for Fair.” Dallas News, September 21, 1952.

Hotel Dennis




Hotel Dennis circa 1905 from the Boardwalk. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

One of Atlantic City’s leading hotels at the close of the 19th century, the Hotel Dennis, located at the end of Michigan Avenue still stands today. In 1974 it was purchased by Bally, subsequently renovated, and is now the “Dennis Tower” in the Bally hotel complex. Below are a few of the hotel’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus dating back to the turn of the century and some images of the hotel throughout its long lifespan.

LUNCH [held by] HOTEL DENNIS [... Digital ID: 470529. New York Public Library

1896 Lunch Menu. Courtesy of NYPL.

BREAKFAST [held by] HOTEL DENN... Digital ID: 466922. New York Public Library

1900 Easter Breakfast. Courtesy of NYPL.

DINNER [held by] HOTEL DENNIS ... Digital ID: 470530. New York Public Library

1896 Dinner Menu. Courtesy of NYPL.

Picture 10

An early incarnation of the Hotel Dennis as pictured in an advertisement from a Heston Handbook published in 1892. Courtesy of HathiTrust.

Hotel Dennis 1901

The Hotel Dennis circa 1900 before its seaward expansion. Courtesy of Library of Congress.


The hotel circa 1908 with additions to the right wing. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


The Hotel Dennis as it exists today under Bally’s ownership. Courtesy of

Hotels of Atlantic City Past


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Surf House, Atlantic City

The Surf House circa 1875. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

In the early days of the resort, before the shoreline was dotted with the palacial hotels and exotic architecture commonly associated with Atlantic City, luxury hotels on the island were much more demure.  In the resort’s youth, there were four principle first-rate hotels on the island. These were, according to a publication from 1868, the United States Hotel, The Surf House, Congress Hall and Mansion House.

Comfort, tranquility and seaside elegance, can be found in abundance at the Surf. The combination of pleasure, comfort and luxury of a shady park, awaits the guest of the “United States;” while at Congress Hall, gaiety, hops, jolly life and all the sweets of good digestion wait upon the visitor. Those, for who the real pleasure is to be derived from nightly hops, card parties and social amusements, usually patronize the whole-souled, whole-hearted Mr. Henckle, who, during the past season, has improved Congress Hall, at an expense of several thousand dollars. The Surf [House], too, holds out all the inducements of a first class hotel, as well as the happiness of a house. (Carnesworthe, 70-71)

Below is a hotel directory from “A Complete Guide to Atlantic City” published in 1885 containing information such as hotel size and rates — the United States Hotel and Mansion House are both included. Absent is Congress Hall which was closed for remodeling.

Shopping Guide Hotel Directory 1885

Hotel Guide from an 1885 guide, "For things you ought to know inquire within, where you will find valuable and useful information, and a reliable shopping guide," located online courtesy of the Library of Congress.

An advertisement for the remodeled Congress Hall published the following year (1886).

Congress Hall 1886

Advertisement from the 1886 edition of "A book of facts, containing valuable and useful information, and a reliable shopping guide," located online courtesy of the Library of Congress.

According to Heston’s Handbook from 1900, The Surf House disappeared in 1880, and eighteen years later, in 1898, Congress Hall followed the same fate.  The Mansion House, which had been located at the corner of Atlantic and Pennsylvania Avenues, was purchased by Atlantic City National Bank and torn down in 1899.


Advertisement for Congress Hall from an 1873 guidebook, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Also on the page is an advertisement for "the portable Babcock Exinguisher." Fires were of frequent and legitimate concern to hotel proprietors and guests alike. Complete guidebook available online here. Courtesy of HathiTrust.

Carnesworthe, pseud..Atlantic City : its early and modern history.Philadelphia, 1868. 95pp. Sabin Americana. Gale, Cengage Learning. University of Texas at Austin. 27 December 2012

Heston, Alfred Miller. Heston's Hand-book: Being an Account of the Settlement of Eyre Haven, And a Succinct History of Atlantic City And County During the 17th, 18th And 19th Centuries; Also Indian Traditions And Sketches of the Region Between Absegami And Chicohacki, In the Country Called Scheyichbi. [Twentieth century souvenir ed.] Atlantic City, N.J., 1900.

Atlantic City’s Former Hotels – The United States Hotel


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The sea-side resorts of New Jersey.

Sketch of the United States Hotel featured in The Sea-Side Resorts of New Jersey from 1877. Courtesy of HathiTrust.

Of the first hotels built in Atlantic City, the United States Hotel, bounded by Pacific, Atlantic, Maryland and Delaware Avenues, was one of the most luxurious and prestigious, costing $250,000 to complete. Although still under construction when the Atlantic and Camden Railroad made its initial stop in the city on July 4th, 1854, it nevertheless was where the island’s first excursionists dined. It was also the choice hotel of President Grant during his stay on the island in 1874, and in the summer of 1892, guests could take a trip on the Pennsylvania Railroad (lunch included) “to sojourn at the famous United States Hotel.” For only $12.75 (for those coming from New York), guests would receive railroad fare, lunch en route and accommodations at the hotel for three nights.


Map of Atlantic City in 1872 showing the United States Hotel. From F.W. Beers Atlas courtesy of Rutger’s Historical Map Collection.

As the decades rolled on, the hotel would be downsized and eventually demolished. In 1890, the portion facing Pacific Avenue was removed and the land converted to building lots, and by 1900 the hotel was completely demolished. However, even in its later years, United States Hotel still fetched premium rates right up until its demise. A travel directory from 1900, Rand, McNally & Co.’s Handy Guide to Philadelphia and Environs, cites the hotel’s rate at $3 to $5 a day, more than most other hotels listed.

Now, 150+ years later, the land upon which the United States Hotel used to perch appears to be a parking lot for the Showboat Hotel.  (Wah, wah.)

Atlantic & Delaware Avenue, Atlantic CIty

Current image of the block of land where the United States Hotel once stood. View from the intersection of Atlantic and Delaware looking towards Maryland and Pacific.

The Sea-side Resorts of New Jersey. Philadelphia: Allen, Lane & Scott, 1877.

"Advertisement 1 -- no Title." New York Evangelist (1830-1902) Jun 09 1892: 8-. American Periodicals. Web. 27 Dec. 2012.

Incubated Babies on the Boardwalk (continued…)


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Dr. How's Infant Incubator

Image of "Dr. How's Electric Incubator" from 1903 similar to the ones in Atlantic City. From Library of Congress.

The first incubated babies in Atlantic City appeared on Young’s Pier in 1904. According to a New York Times article written the same year, “the ‘scientific mother’ as the incubator [had] been termed, [was] caring for seven babies.” The author also noted that “all the little tots [were] gaining strength.”

The babies were quickly a big hit. In a publication from 1908, author Gaston Lichenstein praised the exhibit, stating that “Young’s Pier offers the intellectual tourist more interesting attractions than any other…to be observed on the various piers and the famous Boardwalk.” Of these “interesting attractions” Lichenstein gushed about were the incubator babies which visitors could see for a mere quarter. Below is an excerpt from his book, A Visit To Young’s Pier Atlantic City, N.J., describing the incubators:

Four babies are being cared for by the institution on Young’s Pier. One of them, a healthy youngster of eleven pounds and four ounces, arrived on April 15th, weighing three pounds and two ounces. He is a seven months’ premature specimen. Another, that arrived on April 20th, weighing two bounds and twelve ounces, now tips the scales at eight pounds and eight ounces.
A Filipino premature baby of six months, the smallest baby on record in the world that is alive today (June 26, 1905), is twenty six days old, and weights two pounds and two ounces.
Only nature food is supplied, and the different babies are subjected to varying temperatures, from eight-five degrees upward, according to their condition.
A scale, weighing to a small fraction of an ounce, is publicly exhibited. This delicate apparatus insures accuracy. The “nursery” is enclosed in glass, so that visitors can obtain a full view of the artificial arrangements.
Three of the four infants came under my observation. The extraordinarily youthful Filipino, who is yet imperfectly developed, lies in a state of apparent obliviousness, but, a youngster about to be discharged, who now lives in the open air and who was being held by a nurse, appeared strong and healthy like any normal child. (A Visit to Young’s Pier, 4)

Young's Pier

The Boardwalk at the turn of the century. In the background, Young's Pier, where the incubator babies made their debut. From Library of Congress.

Interesting Tidbits:

On Sept. 16, 1916, The Washington Post ran an article about a Mrs. Richard Elkins who adopted a “war orphan” baby from the incubators. The baby, whose father died in WWI and mother not long after giving birth, caught the eye of Mrs. Elkins. “A frequent visitor to the incubators, [she] became deeply interested in the ‘war orphan’ with the fascinating smile.” The grandmother of the baby consented to its adoption by Mrs. Elkins who then had a priest sent to the incubators to baptize the infant.

On July 5th 1927, a fire swept through Atlantic City supposedly started by a lit cigarette carelessly thrown on the Boardwalk planks. Before the flames could be tamed, they had scorched nearly a city block on the Boardwalk between Columbia Place and Arkansas Avenue. An article from the New York Times reported that “about fourteen babies were in an incubator building on the Boardwalk, one of the places destroyed [by fire].” However, the babies in peril were rescued by physicians, nurses and good Samaritans and carted to shelter within the Shelbourne Hotel.

Washington Post Article

Display ad from The Washington Post in 1901 describing "a curiosity of advanced civilization" and promoting "Dr. Pierce's Favorite Prescription."

Gason Lichenstein. A Visit to Young’s Pier at Atlantic City, N.J.: Also, When Edgecomb Was a ... - Gaston Lichtenstein - Google Books. Richmond, VA: WM Ellis Jones, 1908.

Special to The, Washington Post. 1916. Adopts "war orphan". The Washington Post (1877-1922), Sep 19, 1916. (accessed December 13, 2012).

Special to The New,York Times. 1927. Atlantic city fire lays block in ruins. New York Times (1923-Current file), Jul 06, 1927. (accessed December 13, 2012).

Display ad 23 -- no title. 1901. The Washington Post (1877-1922), Jul 02, 1901. (accessed December 13, 2012).

Toasty Incubated Babies




An advertisement for incubated babies found in a 1920s amusement guide from the Heston Collection at the Atlantic City Public Library. To view the library's webpage about incubator babies, click the image.

What were incubated babies doing on the Boardwalk?


In the 19th century, the term premature did not have the same meaning as today. Instead, it was used liberally; any baby thought to be unusually tiny could be labeled “premature.” Babies who seemed lethargic as well as those actually dying were described in this way. In 1880 a doctor named Stephane Tarnier, drawing inspiration from chicken incubators, invented the first baby incubator. His initial incubation device held several babies who were warmed from a hot water reservoir located underneath them.

In the 1890s, a man named Alexandre Lion would become responsible for turning incubator babies into a spectacle. Lion expanded upon Tarnier’s idea, creating a more elaborate incubator with temperature controls and a ventilation system. His incubator was also more expensive, and not wanting to limit his invention to only those institutions which could afford it, he decided to charge guests admission for a glance at his incubator “storefronts”. For the Berlin Exposition of 1896, Tarnier opened a “child hatchery” that experienced great success.


Dr. Lion’s exhibit in Buffalo, NY. Image from the University of Buffalo Library. To learn more about incubators at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, click here.

At this time, incubator shows had never graced American soil. The man responsible for introducing incubator babies to Americans was Lion’s associate, Martin Couney. One of Couney’s first American exhibits was in Buffalo, NY. (According to an article from the Buffalo Express, one of the babies featured in the exhibit was actually born plastic-baby-favours-38056a_835_generalto one of the Native Americans in the fair’s, “Indian Village.” Supposedly, as the baby was christened, Native Americans danced around the incubator chanting the name of the incubator’s manufacturer, QBATA.) So, that is how the incubator babies exhibit, a weird amalgamation of showmanship and medical advancement came to America and ultimately Atlantic City until 1943 (!!).

Baker, J. (2000). The Incubator and the Medical Discovery of the Premature Infant. Journal Of Perinatology, 20(5), 321.