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Chang and Eng

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During the 1850s, and again after the Civil War, Chang and Eng returned to public exhibitions. In 1860, they met the famed showman, P. T. Barnum and worked for a brief time at his museum in New York City to support their growing families. Barnum also sponsored their tour to Europe. While in Europe, the brothers once again investigated the possibility of separation. The danger was still deemed too great, and surgery was refused. As their health declined, the brothers desired to return home, and they came back to North Carolina in the early 1870s.

On January 17, 1874, Eng was awakened in the middle of the night by a strange sensation. Looking towards his brother, Eng quickly realized that Chang had died. Eng called for his son William, who ran through the house shouting "Uncle Chang is dead!" Within hours, Eng was dead, too. Several weeks later, the bodies were brought to Philadelphia by a commission appointed by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. An autopsy was performed by Drs. Harrison Allen and William H. Pancoast at the MÐ"јtter Museum. It was determined that Chang had died of a cerebral clot. It was unclear, however, why Eng had died. Some physicians suggested that he died of fright. Today, it is thought that Eng bled to death, as the blood pooled in his dead brother's body.

Chang and Eng changed the way society viewed conjoined twins and people with profound physical differences. They proved that those who were different can have normal lives: jobs, spouses, and a healthy family. Chang and Eng introduced the term "Siamese Twins" into our language, and introduced the world to a side of nature that was usually hidden away, ignored, or feared. Chang and Eng led the way for numerous other conjoined twins who have since benefited from the acceptance they demanded and received from society at large. For further information on Chang and Eng Bunker, see Wallace and Wallace, 1978.


By the time they died, Chang and Eng were among the most widely known people in the United States. They were the subjects of newspaper articles, books, poetry, satires, lithographs, and plays. They were also a popular subject for masquerade parties. But at that time, these United States were not so united, and in Chang and Eng, Americans saw their own political struggle embodied. Alison Pingree (1996) has documented the tensions surrounding the "Siamese Twins". As "America struggled with its configurations of government (divided states within a united nation) and domesticity (marriage, in particular)," the twins continually raised the question: Are they two or one? The twin's bond was seen as an argument for union and the fusion of the states, while the alternative explanation was that such a connection was "monstrous" and unnatural. Similarly, while the story of the twins' marriages was seen as the triumph of domesticity, these "marriages raised the specters of homosexuality, incest, adultery, and exotic orgies of flesh which profoundly confronted the heterosexual marital norms of Victorian America."

This tension was not merely implicit. It became explicit in the advertisements



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