Chang and Eng:The Siamese Twins

6 Apr

A continuation of articles in our series highlighting Water for Elephants.

By:  Parisienne

The Benzini Brothers in Water for Elephants had the lovely Lucinda but in 1860 P. T. Barnum had Chang and Eng Bunker.  Chang and Eng (their names are Siamese for left and right) were born on May 11, 1811.  They were born in Thailand, which was then called Siam and are considered to be the most famous conjoined twins to date.  It is because of them that conjoined twins are called “Siamese Twins”.  A four-inch ligament at the chest that stretched conjoined them.[1]

Captain Abel Coffin, an American sea captain, discovered Chang and Eng in 1829.  They toured internationally and in the United States for four decades.  In 1832, they stopped touring with Coffin and managed their own careers.  In 1838, they retired to North Carolina where they lived on a plantation.  They both married and fathered twenty-two children between them.

In 1860, they partnered with P. T. Barnum because their finances were becoming insufficient.  They agreed to a six-week engagement with Barnum at Barnum’s American Museum and after some financial losses during the Civil War they agreed to tour with Barnum during his European Tour.  Originally, Barnum had been using a wax figure of the twins for his museum and in 1853 published some material about their life.[2]

Chang and Eng passed away on January 17, 1874 within a four-hour span of each other.

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80 Responses to “Chang and Eng:The Siamese Twins”

  1. Open Book April 6, 2011 at 3:26 PM #

    Hi Paris,

    Wow, Chang and Eng had a pretty full life. Now, they are the example of maximizing what you’ve been dealt.

    After reading your article, I was curious to know if they could have been separated. Apparently, after their death it was determined they could have been successfully separated. In 1689 a German physician by the name of G. König performed the first successful separation of conjoined twins.

    Do u know if they were still touring with B&B around the time of there death? Did they perform a certain talent in these B&B shows?

    • Parisienne April 6, 2011 at 8:12 PM #

      Open Book,

      According to some research I found,they could have been seperated. They were linked together by a band of cartilage at the sternum and only shared a fused liver but it functioned independently in both men.

      http://www.phreeque.com/chang_eng.html

      • Littlebells April 6, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

        Interesting! I wonder if it came down to cost and/or if they were fine just the way things were. Hmmmm….

        • Parisienne April 6, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

          Honestly, I don’t think a doctor would touch them way back then.

        • Open Book April 6, 2011 at 9:48 PM #

          LOL!! I love the avatar Littlebells that’s my favorite SNL skit of Will Ferrell & Christopher Walken. This is great fun.

          • Littlebells April 6, 2011 at 10:02 PM #

            Thanks OB! I noticed everyone’s avatar seemed to go with their username and well, I love me some cowbell! hahaha!

            Paris, I agree. I’m sure surgery would have been very dicey. Not like today’s at all and there probably would have been a lot of infection and disease.

      • Open Book April 6, 2011 at 9:51 PM #

        Paris,

        Thank u for finding this information for me. This is very fascinating.

  2. Littlebells April 6, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

    Great article Paris! I am always fascinated how conjoined twins marry and have families. i wonder how they block things out and keep things somewhat private and personal.

    • Parisienne April 6, 2011 at 8:14 PM #

      LittleBells,

      Thank You! I’m fascinated by their personal lives too. I guess they wouldn’t be able to keep secrets from each other.

  3. Parisienne April 6, 2011 at 8:22 PM #

    Just found this interesting info. Alex Sink of Florida…she ran for governor is the great grand daughter of chang bunker.

    http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/alex-sink-says-grit-and-pride-were-legacy-of-famous-ancestors-siamese/1123894

    • Open Book April 6, 2011 at 10:07 PM #

      Paris.

      Great research u found and article!

      So the brothers decided to get separate houses at some point. That had to be difficult to manage but I guess living under one roof with two wives was far more difficult.

      I have a lot more Q for tomorrow nights discussion.

  4. Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 12:18 AM #

    I found this video on YT about the Mutter Musuem. They have a plaster cast of Chang and Eng and also have their livers in preservation fluids.

    The information on the twins starts around 2:08

  5. Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 6:20 PM #

    Hi Paris!

    Hi Ladies!

    I probably won’t be here this evening because I have too much going on, but I wanted to stop by and say hi. *waves*

    Paris, here are some questions I have for you:

    Do you know if having conjoined twins was very popular amongst the circuses?

    What other deformities were popular to exploit?

    Do you know what the psychological well-being was of these people during and post circus?

    What kind of money or compensation did these people get, other than room and board?

    Ok, can’t wait to come back and read! 🙂

  6. Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 6:55 PM #

    LittleBells,

    Glad you could stop by. 🙂 I won’t get to all your questions tonight but I will try and answer them over the w/e. Real life is starting to catch up to me. Great questions though!

    • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:06 PM #

      Great video Paris

      Wow! So they were gymnast and performed acrobats.

    • Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

      Hi everyone! Getting to stop by for a bit.

      Paris, No worries!

  7. Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:02 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

  8. lurker April 7, 2011 at 7:04 PM #

    Wow, great article Paris!

    I didn’t realize it was so far back in the 1800’s.
    I don’t know why i failed to make that connection?
    Interesting though.

    • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:08 PM #

      Hi Lurker!

  9. Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:09 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    Thank you for your interest in this article. 🙂 I know everyone has many questions. If I don’t answer them tonight. I will work on it over the w/e.

    1) The Bunker twins were conjoined thoroacopagus twins.

  10. Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:10 PM #

    Hi Ladies!

    Open Book, yes they performed acrobactics. (I assume to show people their version of “normal”)

  11. Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:11 PM #

    Lurker,

    Thank you!

  12. Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

    Did they ever go back to Siam to see there parents?

    • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:14 PM #

      I haven’t found any research to say that they did. Unfortunately.

      • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:15 PM #

        Yeah! I could not find anything either. It seems like once they left home and came to America they never went back.

        • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

          Yeah that’s what it looks like. Although don’t you think their parents would try to find them?

          Found some more information as well.

          • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:22 PM #

            Yeah, but back then people sort of expected not see their family once they left home. It was either too expensive or too long to travel.

            • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

              that’s true. 🙂

            • Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 7:34 PM #

              That would be so difficult. I’m assuming they felt it was worth it (to leave their families). I can’t imagine not seeing my family again. Ugh.

              • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:41 PM #

                Hi LittleBells!

  13. Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:16 PM #

    How tall were they?

    • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

      I’m trying to find it for you. They didn’t look very tall.

    • ozzie20 April 7, 2011 at 7:21 PM #

      Hello all! Great article! I’ve always wanted to know more about this but never got round to it. Thanks!

      • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:22 PM #

        Hi Ozzie!

        Your welcome. 🙂

  14. lurker April 7, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

    I had to go look up PT Barnum and it seems that he was like the ‘first’ Ripley’s believe it or not! And then parlayed that into a traveling exhibition that became a circus!

    • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:21 PM #

      I know. I just found his other acts today.

      • lurker April 7, 2011 at 7:23 PM #

        It’s interesting how he became the top circus. And how in WFE they were chasing Ringling as the ‘best of the best’.

        • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:27 PM #

          Ringling paired with B&B. They became Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey.

        • ozzie20 April 7, 2011 at 7:31 PM #

          I think Ringling and Barnum merged around the time WFE is set in. I’m sure I read that in my travels through information somewhere!

          • ozzie20 April 7, 2011 at 7:32 PM #

            Oops Paris beat me! At least I wasn’t imagining things! 🙂

          • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:32 PM #

            Hi Ozzie!

            Nice to see u!

            • ozzie20 April 7, 2011 at 7:37 PM #

              Hi Open Book!

              It was 1919 they merged though Ringling bought barnum 1907.

              • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:40 PM #

                Thanks for the info Ozzie!

              • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:43 PM #

                Do u know why Ringling was able to buy Barnum? or Why it seem like a good deal?

                • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:48 PM #

                  http://www.ringling.com/FlashSubContent.aspx?id=11714&parentID=366&assetFolderID=370

                  Open Book, I found some info here to your question here. From reading it I assume because P. Barnum had already died and Ringling bought out Bailey’s widow….if i read that correctly.

                  • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:54 PM #

                    Thank U, that makes sense.

                    • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

                      your welcome. 🙂

                  • lurker April 7, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

                    Barum died in 1891 so if they merged afterward, you’re likely right.

                    • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:59 PM #

                      I think it was sometime in the 1900’s.

  15. Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:21 PM #

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1250

    Forgot to insert this up top. 🙂

    • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:31 PM #

      Thank u, Paris.

      I was looking at their clothing. It seems they did not have them specifically made. Do u know if they did?

      • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:33 PM #

        I don’t know. I haven’t found any thing in my research that states that yet but I will let you know if I find something.

        • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:34 PM #

          I would assume that whatever clothing they did have. It had to be altered to allow for the ligament of skin.

  16. Open Book April 7, 2011 at 7:40 PM #

    What I like about WFE is the authenticity to the period, characters and novel. Could u imagine WFE as a comedy instead of a drama?

    • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 7:42 PM #

      no! It has to be a drama. The story wouldn’t come across correctly any other way, IMO

    • Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 7:44 PM #

      I have always been fascinated with costume designers and set designers. I love authenticity because it makes the story more believable and not perfect or cartoonish. I really have high hopes for this film.

    • lurker April 7, 2011 at 7:44 PM #

      No way – I mean for a period it was pretty somber and serious. So no, it wouldn’t be successful to me as a comedy.

      There was comedy during that time, but not via this novel.

      • Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

        I agree, with all the serious story lines, it could not have been a comedy.

    • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 8:01 PM #

      Yes! I ultimately agree with u. The reason why I asked the Q because comedic films were more popular during that time period than dramas.

  17. Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

    Anyone know who are playing the “carnies” in WFE? I’ll go look it up…..

    • Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 7:49 PM #

      apparently these are the only acts that were auditioned:
      http://waterforelephantsfilm.com/2010/04/23/circus-side-show-acts-being-cast-for-water-for-elephants/

      • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 8:05 PM #

        Hi Littlebells,

        I really like the flame throwers. They are awesome to look at. Have u seen them do it up close? It is quite scary.

        • Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 8:09 PM #

          No! But I’ve watched people swallow swords and that’s just all kinds of creepy. It’s one of those things you just don’t do so when you see someone attempting that kind of thing you can’t look away! 🙂

          • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 8:11 PM #

            Can you imagine what they are doing to their throats?

          • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 8:13 PM #

            I know. In my mind I’m saying don’t look turn away, turn away. AHH!! Then it’s too late. LOL!!

  18. Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 8:16 PM #

    If this is a double post, my apologies.

    Oh my gosh, 4th paragraph. http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/bodily-feats/sword-swallowing.htm

    and Yes OB it’s like a train wreck you can’t help but watch. Humans are interesting, aren’t we! 🙂

  19. Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 8:17 PM #

    testing testing, 1,2, 3 *I’m having technical difficulties*

    • Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

      And I’m back.

      OB, yes, it’s like watching a train wreck! 🙂

      Oh my gosh, 4th paragraph down. Never in a million years would I ever attempt this! Not for all the money in the world. Eeek!
      http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/bodily-feats/sword-swallowing.htm

      • Open Book April 7, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

        O.k. u almost need a medical degree to perform this stunt. How insane! Did u watch the video? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

        • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 8:32 PM #

          OMG. You couldn’t pay me enough to do that.

  20. Littlebells April 7, 2011 at 8:19 PM #

    Ok, that’s it! I’m over my computer! THis is my 4th attempt.

    4th paragraph:http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/bodily-feats/sword-swallowing.htm

    • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 8:33 PM #

      LittleBells,

      Its showing up ok. 🙂

      • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

        LittleBells,

        Did you see the interview with Rob in the new Elle mag?

  21. Open Book April 7, 2011 at 8:26 PM #

    Everyone!

    I have to leave early tonight. Paris! Great article and research. I learned a lot.

    Take Care!!

    • Parisienne April 7, 2011 at 8:33 PM #

      Bye Open Book!

      • ozzie20 April 7, 2011 at 8:56 PM #

        Bye Open Book!

        Sorry for the long pause there. My interent connection has finally decided to work again!

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