A continuation of articles in our series highlighting Water for Elephants.
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.
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.
Chang and Eng passed away on January 17, 1874 within a four-hour span of each other.