Saturday, December 16, 2023

The Twins from Siam

 Hugo Garcia 

The term “Siamese twins” is often used to describe a pair of twins that have been physically connected to each other since birth. But where did this term “Siamese twins” come from? Conjoined twin bothers Chang and Eng were born on May 11 th, 1811, in Meklong, Siam, better known as present-day Thailand. They were connected by the sternum by a short, flexible band of flesh. In the past conjoined twins were rare, most conjoined twins at the time wouldn’t survive past birth, making the pair of brothers a rare occurrence. Their mother would encourage the brothers to exercise in their youth, this led to the brothers stretching the piece of flesh connecting to two of them enough to walk side by side, swim, and even operate a boat together. In 1824 the boys were spotted by British merchant Robert Hunter, who at first thought the boys were some sort of wild creature but as he got closer, he realized what he was see was not some creature but conjoined twins. Immediately he realized he could use the boys’ unnatural looks to make a profit by exhibiting the brothers like zoo animals.

Chang and Eng would start their first tour on April 1st, 1829, aboard a trade vessel on its way to Boston, Massachusetts. Chang and Eng were popular among doctors and scientists, who would want to perform various experiments on the twins. With one doctor getting permission from Hunter to run simple experiments, it was discovered that if one felt pain the other would feel it, along with having similar habits and taste, all while having distinct personalities. They would later be experimented on by a physician named George Bolton, he noted that the band connecting he brothers, when extended wouldn’t cause pain to the brothers. During their travels, because Chang and Eng were from Siam, they would often be remarked as Siamese Twins.

Chang and Eng would soon gain their independence from Hunter and run their own tours. During his time, they would work with Phineas Barnum a showman and circus manger. After some time of touring Chang and Eng would later decide to settle down in North Carolina, where they got their citizenship, and purchase a farm in Wilkesboro, along with thirty slaves to help operate the farm with most of them being under the age of seven. After establishing their farm, Chang and Eng would meet the Yates family and consequently meet their future spouses Adelaide and Sarah Yates. They would later on go on to have 21 children in between them along with two separate houses, where they would rotate houses each three days.

Work cited:

Atwal, Sanj. “The dark history of the original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng Bunker.”  Dec. 22

Bahjat, Mudhaffar. “Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874)”. Jan. 1st Embryo Project Encyclopedia. (2018-01-22). ISSN: 1940-5030

The Granger Collection, New York “Chang and Eng”

National Library of Medicine “the World Renowned United Siamese Twins” 

Links for Further Research:

Settling Down in North Carolina. This web source provides more in-depth detail about Chang and Engs more personal lives in North Carolina

Morbid Monday: The Death of Chang and Eng, Conjoined twins until the Last. This web source goes over the moments leading up to Chang and Engs deaths, along with information of their conjoined limb.

How the original Siamese twins had 21 children by two sisters… while sharing one (reinforced) bed.  This web article goes over the more intimate relationship the twins would have with their wives and how it resulted in them have 21 kids.

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