Birth of ‘Siamese Twins’ Chang and Eng Bunker

Birth of ‘Siamese Twins’ Chang and Eng Bunker

One of the more extraordinary events of modern history began on 11 May 1811, when conjoined twin brothers Chang and Eng were born near Bangkok to parents with Chinese, Thai and Malay heritage.
The incredible conjoined phenomenon, where identical twins are joined in utero is very rare but has been known throughout history, with reference made to the condition well over 2000 years ago. But in this case, because of their birth history (Thailand was formerly known as Siam), Chang and Eng were called “Siamese twins” and the name became synonymous with the conjoined phenomenon thereafter.
They were joined from birth at the sternum, with their two livers combined into one fused organ, but apart from this were independent and viable humans.
When 18 years of age, Change and Eng went on a world tour organised by a Scottish businessman where they were exhibited commercially in “curiosity shows”. They later expanded this very successful business on their own and immigrated to America where they married sisters Adelaide and Sarah Yates. In the meantime the twins adopted the surname “Bunker” as their family name.
Settling in North Carolina, where they operated a small plantation, they continued with what surely must be one of the most unusual marriages in history, with the two couples sleeping in a bed built for four, where eventually 21 children were conceived – 11 to Chang and 10 to Eng. However dislike grew between Adelaide and Sarah, and they set up separate homes that the couples would visit alternately every three days or so.
The two families were Confederate sympathisers, using slaves to do work around their plantation and both Chang and Eng produced sons who fought in the Confederate Army. But following the Union victory in 1865 the families lost a large slice of their wealth, and the twins were forced back into travelling exhibitions to earn a living.
In January 1874 Change died in his sleep and Eng followed about three hours later, ending two utterly amazing life stories.
Image: Lithograph of Chang and Eng taken in 1836 – to advertise their curiosity shows. At this time the brothers would have been around 25 years of age. Credit: Wikipedia Commons