Without a doubt, Chang and Eng are by far the most famous of all conjoined twins. In fact, it’s because of them that conjoined twins are also often called ‘Siamese Twins’. The brothers were born on May 11, 1811 in Siam now modern Thailand. They were just two of seventeen children and among their siblings were three sets of twins and one set of triples.
The pair was only joined by a single stretchable four inch ligament at the chest. They were positioned nearly facing each other, with Chang on the left and Eng on the right. Because the pair shared no organs, their biology seemed to function almost completely separately. The two had contrasting personalities and accounts seem to indicate that Eng was the dominant personality.
They were discovered in 1829 by and American explorer named Captain Able Coffin. He put them under contract and began exhibiting them in England and, eventually, America. During their time on display, they were advertised with the slogan e pluribus unum – out of many, one. After three years, Chang and Eng left the guidance of the Captain with stunning results. By 1838 the pair retired to Wilkes County, North Carolina with $60, 000. During their retirement, they explored the idea of being separated – however no physician was up to the task.
The pair became American citizens and adopted the last name of their banker – Bunker. Around that same time, the twins met a pair of sisters and fought over who got who. Both wanted Sarah Yates, the larger of the two. Eng won her over and Chang had to be content with her sister Adelaide. The two brothers would go on to father twenty two children between them.
The Bunker Brood has fairly unconventional living arrangements. The two had purchased a large plantation , and owned slaves to work it, and each brother resided in a home at opposite ends of the land about a mile and a half apart. The men shared their time in three day periods and stuck to this rule so strictly that the death of a child didn’t even interrupt the schedule.
Eventually, with such a large family, the twins found their fortune dwindling so, in 1850, they jointed up with the great P. T. Barnum for a period of 5 years. There had been some animosity between Barnum and the Bunkers due to the fact that for several years Barnum had been displaying wax replicas of the twins in his museum. Still, the union must have been very successful as they joined up with Barnum a few more times including a European tour.
In 1870, Chang was partial paralyzed by a stroke. Chang actually controlled the legs, thus the mobility for both twins was limited. On January 17, 1874 Chang passed away at his home. Eng survived for four more hours laying beside the body of his brother until joining him in death.