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Chang and Eng Bunker


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Chang and Eng Bunker
Chang and Eng Bunker (May 11, 1811 – January 17, 1874) were Siamese-American conjoined twin brothers popularly known as the “Siamese twins”, the name they used to promote themselves that their fame propelled to become synonymous for conjoined twins in general. They were “two of the nineteenth century’s most studied human beings”.[2]
Born in today’s Thailand with Chinese heritage, the brothers were brought to the United States in 1829. Physicians inspected them as they became known to American and European audiences in “freak shows”.[3] Newspapers and the public were sympathetic to them but not immune to racial prejudice. Within three years they left the control of their managers, who they thought were cheating them, and toured on their own. In early exhibitions, they appeared exotic and displayed their athleticism; later on, in a more dignified parlor setting, they would hold conversations in English.

After a decade of financial success, the twins quit touring in 1839 and settled near Mount Airy in rural North Carolina. Integrating into the community, they became U.S. citizens, married local sisters, and bought slaves. They fathered 21 children, several of whom would accompany them once they resumed touring a decade later. The families lived in two separate houses, alternating three-day stays. The twins became well-off businessmen; after the Civil War they lost the part of their wealth in slaves. After they died at the age of 62, an autopsy revealed that their livers were fused in the ligament connecting their sternums.

Many works have fictionalized the Bunkers’ lives or use them to symbolize cooperation or discord, notably by representing the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. Novelist Darin Strauss wrote, “No definitive history of the twins’ life exists; their conjoined history was a confusion of legend, sideshow hyperbole, and editorial invention even while they lived.

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