By Joseph Andrew Orser

Hooked up on the chest by means of a band of flesh, Chang and Eng Bunker toured the U.S. and the realm from the 1820s to the 1870s, putting themselves and their awesome our bodies on convey as "freaks of nature" and "Oriental curiosities." extra famously referred to as the Siamese twins, they ultimately settled in rural North Carolina, married white sisters, turned slave vendors, and fathered twenty-one young ones among them. even though the brothers consistently professed their normality, they occupied an odd area in nineteenth-century the USA. They spoke English, attended church, grew to become americans, and sponsored the Confederacy in the course of the Civil battle. but in existence and loss of life, the brothers have been obvious by means of such a lot americans as "monstrosities," an affront they have been not able to escape.

Joseph Andrew Orser chronicles the twins' background, their occasionally raucous trip via antebellum the United States, their household lives in North Carolina, and what their status published in regards to the altering racial and cultural panorama of the USA. greater than a biography of the twins, the result's a research of nineteenth-century American tradition and society in the course of the prism of Chang and Eng that unearths how american citizens projected onto the twins their very own hopes and fears.

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Additional info for Lives of Chang and Eng: Siam's Twins in Nineteenth-Century America

Example text

Just as Finlayson had used a physical deformity—goiter—to describe the facial features of the Siamese, some people argued that the twins’ deformity was more common in Asia. In 1830, the Edinburgh Journal of Science reported that, “especially in the East, . . ” To support this claim, the journal referred to a pair of twins joined at the chest that a British colonial official had encountered in India in 1807. 41 Illustrations of the twins also highlighted their exoticness, Chineseness, or otherness, by featuring long hair braided into wreaths around their heads, loose-fitting costumes made to resemble the clothes worn in their native land, and facial features intended to evoke images of the Chinese but, across the various pictures, displaying such a variety of looks that clearly they were based on the artists’ imagination and not the originals.

Scholars could analyze the answers to see whether these two men, whose upbringing and experiences had been virtually identical, exhibited stark differences in mental powers. Similarly, hoping to strike a blow against phrenologists, he suggested that further experiments might reveal significant differences in character and personality despite relatively identical features of the head. In essence, Tucker hoped to show that nature played a greater role than nurture in determining a person’s inner world but that these natural characteristics were not restricted to specific racial or national groups.

44 What actually was inside the band, however, was a matter of great debate for medical professionals. Just as early observers used their understandings of the Chinese and the Siamese and the European to name the characteristics they believed the twins ought and ought not to possess, doctors used their experience with normal and abnormal anatomies to postulate what the structure of the band contained. Breastbone appeared to give way to ensiform cartilage along the top of the band, similar to a rib.

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Lives of Chang and Eng: Siam's Twins in Nineteenth-Century America by Joseph Andrew Orser


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