Siamese Twins: The United Brothers, Chang-Eng …
Siamese Twins: The United Brothers, Chang-Eng …
Siamese Twins: The United Brothers, Chang-Eng …

Siamese Twins: The United Brothers, Chang-Eng …

New York: J. M. Elliott, printer, 33 Liberty Street, [ca. 1838]. Illustrated broadside, 12.5” x 7.5”. Wood engraving (4” x 3.75”) and text within ornamental border.

A broadside advertising an appearance of the original ‘Siamese Twins,’ Chang and Eng, featuring an evocative wood engraving of the brothers.

A sensation across the U.S. and Europe during the 1830s, Chang and Eng were born co-joined at the sternum in Siam (present-day Thailand) in 1811. The twins were ‘discovered’ at a young age by a British merchant who, with the permission of their mother, contracted them for a five-year tour overseas. Departing from Siam with the merchant and a U.S. sea captain in 1829, the brothers arrived in America at the age of seventeen and began a career of exhibition and performance. Chang and Eng’s stage-act consisted of routines incorporating music, dance, and acrobatics. After touring both in America and abroad and achieving financial success, the brothers retired in 1839 and purchased an estate in North Carolina, adopted the surname Bunker, wedded two sisters, and raised twenty-one children between the two couples.

This broadside features a wood engraving depicting the brothers at a young age wearing Western-style jackets, striped pants, and headscarves, while standing in a tropical scene that plays up their alluring ‘otherness.’ The fleshy band connecting them at the stomach is quite plainly visible. An appeal is made to “ladies and gentlemen,” in which the promoters assure all prospective viewers (including women) that the pair would not be too shocking a sight. It is further noted that “pamphlets containing an historical account of the twins” will be available for sale at the show, in addition to engraved and lithographic likenesses. Admission was fifty cents, and there was “no re-admission to the room.”

According to the AAS, printer J. M. Elliott is listed in New York directories at 33 Liberty Street between 1838 and 1845, and is known to have produced lithographs of the twins in 1837 and 1839. Thus, this broadside would have been issued near the end of the twins’ touring career, which lasted from 1829 to 1839.

A fascinating document advertising the appearance of the original ‘Siamese Twins’ near the end of their popular career.

REFERENCES: The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874) at embryo.asu.edu

CONDITION: Very good, one very short tear at lower-left, some toning.

Item #5548

Price: $1,750.00

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