The Original and Most Popular of Siamese Twins
CHANG and ENG Bunkers (1811-1874) Original SIAMESE TWINSClick thumbnail to view full-size
How the term SIAMESE TWINS was coined
I am now exactly 72 years and 7 days old as of this writing-July 21- and confessed that I’ve but a hazy idea of how the term “SIAMESE TWINS” came to be. Since my school days from the grades to college and from the data gathered from the radio and TV, all I know of the Siamese twins is that they were conjoined twins with bodies attached together. That’s all. I am pretty sure most of you share the same understanding of the term with me or you may have heard or read the fact long time ago but have forgotten it now. So this is the opportune time for us to know, recall and share the facts together about how the Siamese Twins terminology was added to the dictionary. These days- thanks to the computer-internet- all you have to do is type the key words on the search bar and verily! Floods of facts and related topics come your way.
History tells that the term SIAMESE TWINS was first applied to the conjoined twins CHANG and ENG BUNKER after their birth on May 11, 1811 in Siam- the ancient name of Thailand in the province of Samutsongkram. Their father was a fisher and mother a Siamese woman named Nok. Very clear, isn’t it? Siamese twins was derived from Siam, the place from where they were born. Conjoined twins born before them in Siam? There could be but history is silent about them.
Twin Chang and Eng were joined at the sternum by a small piece of cartilage. Their livers were fused but independently complete. Although 19th century medicine did not have the means to do so, modern surgical techniques would have easily allowed them to be separated.
Robert Hunter, a British merchant- entered the picture. discovered and exhibited the unique twins in a curiosity show during a world tour. The twins with their earnings engaged successfully in a business on their own after their contract with Hunter terminated.
In 1839 they arrived at a good decision to settle on a 110-acre farm in Traphill nearby Wilkesboro, North Carolina. They become naturalized United States citizens. Decided to lead normal lives and to expand business, they settled on a plantation with vast tract of lands. Their motive was to increase income by selling farm products in distant markets. They bought slaves and adopted the surname “Bunker”. On April 13, 1843, they married two non-identical sisters: Chang to Adelaide Yates and Eng to Sarah Anne Yates.
They shared a bed good for 2 pairs. Chang and Adelaide had 10 children, while Eng and Sarah Anne11. But trouble sets in. The 2 wives had irreconcilable misunderstanding. The solution was to set up 2 separate households, the twins would alternate spending three days at each home. During the American Civil War Chang's son Christopher and Eng's son Stephen both fought for the Confederacy. Chang and Eng lost part of their property as a result of the war, and were very bitter in their denunciation of the government in consequence.
After the war, they returned to their old trade of public exhibition. But success was no longer in sight. Despite this sad turn of events, they maintained their integrity of character and fair dealing. They were looked up to with high esteem by their neighbors and those who knew them.
The twins died on the same day on the 17th of January 1874. Chang died suddenly in his sleep of pneumonia. Eng –after waking up- found his brother dead. He called for his wife and children to attend to him. A doctor came to perform an emergency separation, but Eng chose not to be separated from his dead brother. He died three hours later. Chang's wife died on April 29, 1892 and Eng's wife died on May 21, 1917. Both couples enjoyed 31 years of fruitful marriage. Chang’s wife was widowed for 18 years and Eng’s wife for 43.
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