You'd think people would generally be nice to babies. They're cute, they're the future of our species, and the foreskins of the males can be used to create four football fields of human skin. You weren't expecting to hear that advantage, were you?
A human baby, seen here cultivating the playing surface of your nightmares.
But our attitude toward babies and their useful, useful foreskins hasn't always been so benevolent: We can now add "caring for the young of our own goddamn species" to the list of things humanity has managed to fuck up. For example ...
5Premature Infants Were Used As Sideshow Attractions
Today, infants that are born very prematurely are forced to spend weeks or even months lying in incubators, another word for fancy baby-holders that control an infant's environment until it's ready to enter the cold, germ-ridden outside world. Today, you'll find these Containers of Tiny, Adorable Sadness where one would assume they have always been: inside hospitals. But in the early 20th century, you were more likely to find them on display in an amusement park. Really, guys? That's even more upsetting than clowns.
At the Coney Island amusement park in Brooklyn, fairgoers could pay cash to file past rows of teeny, depressing premature infants. The sideshow even featured a barker who stood out front of the display and tried to entice passersby to come inside, presumably with the help of hilarious puns. It sounds insane, and luckily this infant-suffering-as-attraction was a flash in the pan, with indignant crowds gathering within months, simply repeating, "Really?" until everyone packed up and left. That's why it lasted only ... uh ... 40 years.
But we shouldn't be too harsh on the attraction that turned the cotton candy of countless fairgoers to ashes in their mouths. The sideshow's founder, a physician named Martin Couney, was desperate to bring his newfangled incubators into common, non-clown-related usage, but the medical establishment didn't take him seriously. Instead, the standard treatment for premature infants at the time was to try to distract the mother while quietly shuffling them out of view.
"Your son? Yeah, he's around here somewhere. Anyhoo, this is a drawing I did of a duck penis."
So the Coney Island sideshow was Couney's way of funding his baby-incubating project and saving as many teeny lives as possible without having to charge their parents for their care. In fact, I'm willing to bet at least some parents of preemies today would put up with the presence of corn-dog-clutching gawkers if it meant they could avoid a $30,000 medical bill.
4Every Baby Wore A Dress (For Poop Reasons)
We've mentioned before that the current craze of gender-specific baby stuff is actually a recent phenomenon, and that for much of history both genders wore feminine, flowing clothes as babies. After all, babies are basically highly efficient human-waste factories, and flowing garments are easier to wrangle when you're trying to clean up said waste in an era before zippers and Velcro. But sometimes this skirts-for-everyone thing went past mere convenience and way into "my parents must have really wished I was a girl" territory. Here, for example, is the very male 18th-century French king Louis XV:
And here's young Ernest Hemingway, whose mother admittedly went a little overboard:
On the one hand, the continued survival of male humans definitely seems to prove that putting little boys in feminine clothing isn't harmful to them, which is a good reason to stop calling down the wrath of God whenever a parent paints their son's nails or when a retail chain ditches its gender-specific toy labeling. On the other, why would you dress a kid of either gender like this?
He's probably pooping, like, all over that, guys.