Siamese Twins

Unidentified Artist and J M Elliottc. 1838-1845

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

The outdated term “Siamese twins” originates from brothers Chang and Eng Bunker (both 1811–1874), born in Siam (now Thailand) with a shared liver and joined at the sternum. Discovered in their teens by a Scottish merchant and put on tour, the conjoined twins became sensations. For most of their career, they acted as their own managers, and so were neither exploited as curiosities nor exiled for their unusual anatomy. With their commercial success, they settled on a North Carolina plantation, became slaveholders, married two sisters, and fathered twenty-one children. They died within hours of each other. Their story has been interpreted by many, from Mark Twain to a current film in the works by Gary Oldman.
This broadside shows the twins in a tropical scene as both Eastern and Western subjects, wearing suits and cloth headdresses and highlighting their connecting tissue. It shrewdly offers for sale autobiographical pamphlets and portraits, “suitable for framing.”

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  • Title: Siamese Twins
  • Creator: Unidentified Artist, J M Elliott
  • Date Created: c. 1838-1845
  • Physical Dimensions: w17.3 x h29 cm (Image)
  • Classification: Print
  • Type: Woodcut on paper
  • Rights: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution