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Subject: ARCHIVE: January 17, 1874 ~Chang and Eng Bunker, 62, world's first infamously known "Siamese twins", who after years of touring internationally exploiting their conjoined bodies, settled in rural Ohio. They married, and both raised large families, until the day Eng woke to find his brother Chang dead from blood clot, followed by Eng's death soon after. ...

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Date Posted: Friday, January 17, 07:32:48pm

Siamese-American conjoined twin brothers whose fame propelled the expression "Siamese twins"
to become synonymous for conjoined twins in general. They were widely exhibited as curiosities
and were "two of the nineteenth century's most studied human beings". ...

Chang and Eng Bunker
(May 11, 1811 January 17, 1874)

The brothers were born with Chinese ancestry in today's Thailand and were brought to the United States in 1829. Physicians inspected them as they became known to American and European audiences in "freak shows". Newspapers and the public were initially sympathetic to them, and 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; they later held conversations in English in a more dignified parlor setting.

In 1839, after a decade of financial success, the twins quit touring and settled near Mount Airy, North Carolina. They became American citizens, bought slaves, married local sisters, and fathered 21 children, several of whom accompanied them when they resumed touring. Chang's and Eng's respective families lived in separate houses, where the twins took alternating three-day stays. After the Civil War, they lost part of their wealth and their slaves. Eng died hours after Chang at the age of 62. An autopsy revealed that their livers were fused in the ligament connecting their sternums.

The novelist Darin Strauss writes, "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." Many works have fictionalized the Bunkers' lives, often to symbolize cooperation or discord, notably in representing the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War.

In Siam (18111829)
Chang and Eng were born in 1811 in Siam (modern-day Thailand); their mother reportedly said their birth was no more difficult than that of their other several siblings'. Their exact date of birth and details of their early lives are unclear; the earliest report on the twins assigns the birth month of May 1811. Their birth village is called Meklong; a statue in the province of Samut Songkhram commemorates the twins' birthplace.

Their father, Ti-eye, was a fisherman of Chinese descent. He died when the twins were young, possibly in a smallpox epidemic that ran through the area in 1819. Their mother, Nok, raised ducks with her children's help. Their mother's ethnic origin is unclear; varying accounts suggest that she was Siamese, Chinese, part-Chinese and part-Siamese, or part-Chinese and part-Malay. Chang and Eng were raised with Theravada Buddhism. Despite being joined at the sternum, they were lively youths, running and playing with other children. Their mother raised them like her other children, in a "matter-of-fact" way without special attention on their being conjoined.

The "discovery" of the brothers is credited to the British merchant Robert Hunter. Hunter was a trusted trade associate of the Siamese government who traveled with considerable freedom. In 1824, Hunter reportedly first met the twins while he was on a fishing boat in the Menam River and the twins were swimming at dusk. He mistook them for a "strange animal", but after meeting them he saw economic opportunity in bringing them to the West. He went to tell a story that the king of Siam had ordered the brothers' deaths and had originally forbidden him to transport them out of the country; regardless of the story's veracity, it took five years for Hunter to bring them away. Hunter and American sea captain Abel Coffin departed to the United States with the twins in summer 1829. A contract Hunter and Coffin signed with the brothers stipulated that their tour would last for five years, though a rumor later circulated that Chang and Eng's mother had sold them into slavery, a charge which greatly upset the twins.

Christian missionaries contacted their mother in 1845, four years before she died. She had believed that her conjoined
sons were dead, having not seen them for 15 years, but was informed that they were alive and recently married.

Learn MORE about the first infamous "Siamese twins"

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Subject Author Date
Imagine waking up in the morning feeling ok, then knowing you'll be dead within hours?? (NT)Today, they could have been separated medically.Sunday, January 26, 01:56:15am

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