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1902: A Trip to the Moon
This era was the golden age of Coney Island when all sorts of things, both amazing and atrocious, were happening all the time. In 1902, the people at Steeplechase started an interactive audience experience called "A Trip to the Moon" which was derived from the Georges Méliès film of the same name. Participants at Steeplechase boarded a "space ship and traveled to meet martians and eat the moon" which was, of course, made of dyed-green cheese. Yum!
Also, at this time, Dr. Martin Arthur Couney invented baby incubators to help save the lives of infants born prematurely. The incubators were actually part of an exhibit that started in 1903 at Dreamland and were remarkable for providing excellent care to premature babies at no cost to their parents. Incubators were not widely used in hospitals until the 1930s, so this was truly a case of Coney Island being a—totally weird—pioneer.
A less heart-warming story of a man pioneering his invention on Coney Island, was that of Thomas Edison trying out a theory he had about electricity on an elephant, Topsy. I hate this story so much. I hate it SO MUCH. Poor Topsy was an elephant in the Luna Park Zoo who had killed three of her trainers, but you know what? Who cares, really? One of them was so abusive that he fed her lighted cigarettes. I would kill anyone who did that to me too. Zoo officials REALLY wanted Topsy to die, so they fed her poisoned carrots before she was electrocuted by Edison, who—WHAT A DICK—also filmed the electrocution and distributed it afterward. Ugh. I hate this story so much.