Chang Bunker’s Rifle

 Chang Bunker’s Rifle

 Domonique Baldwin, Glenn Boyles, Celso Espinoza, Lisa Li

In April 2012, a descendant of the famous Chang and Eng Bunker twins donated an artifact that has greatly enriched the Bunker Twins exhibit at the UNC Wilson Special Collections Libraries.  Dr. Vance Haynes, a professor of archaeology at the University of Arizona, donated a 0.41 caliber rifle belonging to his great-grandfather, Chang Bunker.  The rifle is in excellent condition and will likely shed new light on the lives of these legendary figures.

Chang Bunker’s 19th century rifle was most likely made by popular gunsmith Jacob Kunz of Philadelphia as indicated by the markings “J. Kunz Philad” along the barrel of the gun. Kunz was highly revered as a talented gunmaker and was known for his intricate, artistic designs and for his high quality guns. The gun itself was handcrafted and the screws have been dated to sometime during the 1830’s. It has been claimed to date specifically to 1837.  The gun is a .41 caliber rifle with percussion cap ignition and an octagonal barrel and double set triggers. It has a cheek rest on the left side of the stock and a decorated patchbox on the other, used to store cleaning accessories for the rifle. The gun was made with aged Black or English Walnut wood which gives it its refined, classy look (Armstrong).  The rifle displays characteristics of the Kentucky rifle, or the American longrifle, such as the decorative patch box and long barrel (The American Longrifle). This rifle has been thought to be valued around $10,000. A similar rifle was seen featured on Bonhams, a British auction house that specializes in fine art and antiques. This other rifle was also made by Kunz for Chang. Both rifles were made during the same time period and had a very similar style, specifically the style of the handmade screws, and the hammer of the rifle. The second rifle was claimed to have been sold for $9,945.

Engraved on the top portion of the rifle near the ignition trigger, are the initials of Chang’s son, Christopher Wren Bunker. The personal engraving suggests that the gun was commissioned and purchased by Chang. This detail suggests that the gun was likely a gift from Chang to Christopher, who was his first son. Furthermore, the gun was estimated to have been received between 1840-1850, which coincides with the time of Christopher’s birth in 1845 (Irving 1976).  According to details surrounding Christopher’s life, the gun can be speculated to have been a fitting gift.  In letters to his sister, Nancy Adelaide, Christopher revealed that he enlisted in the Confederate army at the tender age of 18 and took his service to the Confederacy very seriously (Gerard 2012).  Having acquired proficiency with guns in the war, Christopher would have likely appreciated such a gift from his father.  Men passing down hunting rifles to their sons as family heirlooms was a Southern tradition and cultural norm (Wilson et al. 1229), which also reflects Chang’s receptiveness to Southern culture.

A less likely possibility is that the rifle was a gift from one of the twins’ wealthy fans, though Chang and Eng were constantly given gifts while touring.  In any event, the popularity of Kunz’s work combined with the high quality craftsmanship and intricate detailing on the stock of the weapon suggests that the rifle was very expensive.  The wealth that the Bunker twins accumulated during their career assures us that the rifle was valuable.

According to Dr. Vance Haynes, great-grandson of Chang Bunker, the rifle was mostly used for hunting. The rifle’s long barrel makes it equipped for long range shooting, and the twins reportedly took “pleasure in hunting squirrels and birds” (Elliott).  Haynes’ speculation about the use of the gun fits well with the location and time period in which the Bunkers settled.  The rural South, including northwestern North Carolina, was largely unsettled compared to the industrial northern states before the Civil War.  There were ample hunting grounds and abundant wildlife, making the South famous for sport (Schullery 64-65).  In fact, the draw of hunting and outdoor sport may have been a factor in the twins decision to settle in Wilkes County in the first place.  In 1839, the twins met Dr. James Callaway while touring in New York and Callaway invited the twins to his home in Wilkesboro, NC.  Weary from exhibitions and life on the road, the twins took Callaway up on his offer and travelled to Wilkesboro to hunt with him (Ayers).  Clearly the hunting excursion left quite an impression if it was a factor in the twins’ decision to settle in Wilkes County.  A primary document written by an author who knew the twins personally commented, “They are extremely fond of shooting and fishing, and are considered very expert sportsmen.  The forests, which are extensive in this part of North Carolina, abound in game, and afford them with abundant facilities for the pursuit of their favorite recreation” (Strong 1853).

An interesting side story noted in a primary document featuring the twins implies that this rifle was potentially involved in an incident which helped the Bunkers establish credibility with their neighbors.  Around the time the twins first settled down in Wilkes county, locals in the region were apparently terrorized by wolves, namely a certain “Bob-tail…rendered himself the terror of the country,” and all attempts to capture the creature proved futile because “no one was ever lucky enough to get a successful shot at him.”  According to the account, Chang and Eng were aroused from slumber one night by noise from livestock.  Speculating that the wolf was culprit, the twins “…seized a gun, and accompanied by a negro hastened out to interfere with the matter.”  They were successful in killing the creature, a feat much admired by their new neighbors.  This particular author noted, “Of course, Chang and Eng gained considerably in the estimation of their neighbors by this achievement” (Strong 1853). It was interesting that the Bunker twins seemed to have an affinity to animals. One account describes a wild horse that others had not managed to tame. The twins went into the woods where the horse had been and within a few minutes, the twins returned with a very docile horse following behind them. This supports that the twins had an interest in sport that involved animals and could indicate a possible natural talent possessed by the twins.

If this rifle’s primary purpose was in indeed hunting, the gun can give us insight into the twins’ social lives.  During the South’s antebellum period, common men hunted to supplement their food and money supply and escape their laborious daily routine.  On the other hand, wealthy planters and landowners hunted purely for recreation and it was often indicative of power and status (Wilson et al. 1228-1229).  The Bunker twins were not as wealthy as the major plantation owners of the time, but did own slaves and a sizeable amount of land.  Perhaps hunting was not only a favorite pastime of Chang’s, but also a means to express his wealth and status.  The twins’ remarkable ability to manage themselves and acquire fame in a foreign, intolerant country certainly provides grounds to celebrate their success.

Alexander Armstrong, a rifle expert that UNC libraries consulted, is skeptical that the rifle was used solely for hunting.  He notes that Chang’s rifle is reminiscent of rifles used in large scale shooting matches in Europe and speculates that the rifle was made for and used in Chang and Eng Bunker’s exhibitions.  Although no information has surfaced to prove that this particular rifle was used in exhibitions, the brothers evidently did participate in shooting matches.  A reporter for the Southerner wrote that the twins often “attended the local shooting matches, where turkey or beef was the reward for the best marksman.”  The rifle would have been well suited for use in shooting and marksmanship matches considering some of its technicalities.  It has a “pull set” trigger designed for increased long range accuracy and, according to Armstrong, a practical firing range of 300-400 yard using a conical bullet.

In addition to its length the rifle is also front heavy and would be difficult, but not impossible to fire standing. Although the handling and maneuvering of this rifle would prove difficult for anyone, it would seem to present a peculiar challenge for the Bunker twins.  Primary accounts on the twins indicate that Chang’s height only reached 5 feet and 1 inch, weighing 110 pounds.  His small stature would have made wielding the weapon even more challenging, however, similar reports also state that the twins possessed “extraordinary physical strength” (Moreheid 1850).  According to a biographical pamphlet entitled,   A Few Particulars Concerning Chang-Eng, Chang and Eng are described as “expert[s] in the use of a gun.”  Additional primary resources even note that the twins had the skill to capture large game from time to time. “…[the twins], tolerable good shots… are fond of hunting birds, squirrels, and once had the pleasure of killing a deer” (Moreheid 1850). The same Southerner reporter previously noted claimed that they had “acquired reputations as crack shots with rifles or pistols” and were “more adept than a single man.”  A primary document features twins with rifles and illustrates how the two would have held their guns.  In the flyer the twins are seen with the curved butt portion of the stock resting on their shoulder as they fire the rifle (“Chang” and “Eng”).

 

Works Cited
An Account of Chang and Eng, The World Renowned Siamese Twins. New York: T. W. Strong, 1853. North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Armstrong, Alexander. Siamese Twins Rifle: Initial Observations. 24 July 2012. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 28 October 2012.

Ayers, Annette. “Chang and Eng Bunker: Surry County’s Original Siamese Twins.” NCpedia. 2008. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://ncpedia.org/biography/bunker-twins>.

“Chang” and “Eng” The World Renowned United Siamese Twins. 1860. Lithograph on paper. North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel HIll, NC.

Elliott, John M. A Few Particulars Concerning Chang-Eng, The United Siamese Brothers. 1838. Paper Pamphlets. North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.

Gerard, Philip. “Indivisible: Chang and Eng Bunker.” Our State Magazine. Our State Magazine, Nov. 2012. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <http://www.ourstate.com/chang-and-eng-bunker/>.

Jack, Emily, Linda Jacobson. Ordinary Objects, Extraordinary Lives: Past and Recent Gifts Portray Public, Private Affairs of Bunker Twins. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Collection Gallery. 2012. Print.
Moreheid, J. Domestic Habits of the Siamese Twins. Prairie du Sac, Wis.: Express Press, 1978. Print.
Schullery, Paul. The Bear Hunter’s Century. 1st ed. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1988. Print.

Strauss, Darin. Chang and Eng : a Novel. New York, N.Y.: Plume, 2001. Print.

“The American Longrifle.” American Longrifles. AAAV, LLC, 2005. Web. 29 Oct. 2012. <http://americanlongrifles.org/american-longrifle-kentucky-rifle-story.htm>.

Wilson, Charles R et al. Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 1989. Print.

Photograph of Jesse & Louise Bunker

A documentary, done in the style of a history program, on the NCC Gallery’s photograph of Jesse & Louise Bunker, two of Eng Bunker’s children.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6LQXH93e1U[/youtube]

Erika Covian, Chanler Sawyer, Amanda Smith, and Laura Valedon-Trapote

Images in this video are covered by fair use for educational purposes.

 

 

Silver fork and spoon

Chang and Eng Bunker’s fork and spoon, acquired by Wilson Library in 2012.

Silver Fork and Spoon

Rachel Best, Andrea Chaves, Janice Lee, and Ellen Lesser

The silver fork and spoon, while seemingly mundane historical artifacts and objects of ordinary use, offer intriguing insight into the domestic life of Chang and Eng Bunker and the use of dining utensils during the nineteenth century. The utensils have the initials “C” and “E” stamped on the handles and show obvious signs of use. Although they have the same pattern on the edges, they appear to be from manufacturers established in different countries.  These items provide a glimpse into the lives of these extraordinary men and serve as a subtle reminder that, although a portion of their lives was spent traveling and performing, they eventually settled down to have wives, children, and farms, where they took part in tasks of everyday life.

According to Judge Graves, a close friend of the Bunker twins’ whom they often entertained, their manner of life was similar to that of the upper class farmers around them. The Bunkers’ home was large with elegant interior design and contained multiple sets of silver spoons and forks, which is unsurprising given the considerable size of their families. Despite their wealth, however, Graves noted that owning silver kitchenware at the time was fairly common, indicating that silverware in the nineteenth century was not particularly expensive.1 In the twins’ account book, it was recorded that C. Harris purchased gifts from New York in June 1840 for the twins. Chang and Eng received six silver table forks and six silver tablespoons which cost $29 and $26.25, respectively.2 It is possible that this fork and spoon were included in that purchase, but it is not known for certain.

Because of the large number of silverware they possessed, the Bunker twins were able to have many visitors in their home. Christine Quigley claims that the twins were said to “enjoy company and to show great hospitality to visitors who were genuine and not just curious.”3 Most likely, the twins showed hospitality towards their guests in an American style as opposed to displaying traditions typical of the Siamese culture from which they descended. According to James W. Hale, studies that were conducted on the twins stated that Chang and Eng were well accustomed to everyday living in Western countries. They usually drank beverages of tea, coffee, or water, but they did not much prefer wine and spirits. From these accounts, it can be concluded that the twins dined on Western food instead of customary Siamese dishes.4

The American method of dining with utensils involves cutting food with the knife in the dominant hand and then switching to hold the fork in the dominant hand, a method learned from the French.5 As Chang and Eng Bunker spent some time traveling around Europe, and specifically England, they may have picked up the English style of eating, which is to leave the knife in the dominant hand at all times. Due to their physical conjoining, it might also have simply been easier for them to employ this technique when eating.

In addition to the initials “C” and “E,” which presumably stand for Chang and Eng, the spoon bears the engraving of the silversmith company Walker & Hall. George Walker established the initial enterprise in approximately 1845 in Sheffield, England, and a few years later he formed the partnership with Henry Hall.6 The company specialized in a production process called electroplating, which had been only recently discovered at the time for use with silver and involved the coating of an object with the metal using electrical currents. This method often creates a more whitish tint to the silver and conceals the seams created in the original formation of the dish or utensil.7 The famous trademark of Walker & Hall, which was stamped onto all of their pieces and wares, incorporates the letters “W” and “H” within a flag symbol. Variations on this emblem do exist, including that of the initials placed inside of a rectangle with ribbed curvatures on the two vertical borders.8 This particular spoon of Chang and Eng’s displays a more simplified version of the initials enclosed by a rectangle with entirely straight sides.  Also interesting to note is the lack of additional maker’s markings on the spoon, or hallmarks which were required to be placed silver products made in England throughout the nineteenth century in order to ensure quality and construction were up to standards and that the proper taxes had been paid.9

Production of silver goods as a whole increased during the 1800s because of the discovery of new sites for mining silver in addition to revived interest in and transport of the metal from previously established ores in places all over the world. Furthermore, there was an expansion of the middle class in Europe and America that led to a growth in the output of silver as demand increased. Silversmiths began to manufacture basic objects in a more industrialized fashion along with the special orders they produced for the elite classes. The mass production of smaller goods, including spoons and flatware, made the products readily available to the growing middle class and provided them with utensils formerly reserved as luxury goods for the upper classes.10 Thus it appears that it would not have been uncommon for Chang and Eng to own a silver spoon in a time when such materials were being so widely produced. The scratches and markings on the bottom of the curved part of the instrument indicate that the spoon was used for the consumption of food and not just for display in their home.

The Tenneys, a family of silversmiths based in New York, produced the fork that belonged to Chang and Eng Bunker. William Ingalls Tenney, a silversmith and jeweler, owned his business from February 1806 until his death in April 1848. He partnered with his younger brother, Daniel Ingalls Tenney, from 1828 to 1848, and Daniel continued the business after William’s death.11 Although it would have maintained some value because it was made of silver, Chang and Eng’s fork would not have been one of the Tenneys’ more expensive, elaborate pieces. It was made in the Fiddle style, which was a very common, simple pattern for silverware of that era, highly popular amongst those living comfortably in the 1800s.12 Certain uniformity exists amongst all the pieces manufactured by the Tenneys, including the Fiddle-style handle, as well as the initials of those who purchased the flatware. Unlike many of the Tenney pieces produced around this time which had the initials on the front of the handle, this particular fork of the Bunkers has the calligraphy on the back, an indication of the possibility that the twins made additional customized requests in regards to the pieces. Typically, the silversmith who crafted the object was specified by a stamp located on the back of each item; those articles made by William Tenney consisted of variations of his name spelled out or the letters W.I.T. This particular fork simply reads “Tenney,” and although the Tenneys’ shop was located at 251 Broadway, the address on the fork belonging to Chang and Eng reads 281 Broadway.13 Like the spoon, it is evident from the small marks on the fork that it was probably used regularly as an eating utensil rather than saved for special occasions. The present day value of the fork is a result of its relationship to Chang and Eng rather than the fork’s design and manufacturer.

In the nineteenth century, forks were still considered somewhat of a status symbol even as they came into more widespread use. A full place setting was a common way to display one’s wealth and taste. Forks began to be popular in Europe among the upper classes in the 1400s, but they had been in use around the world since at least the seventh century. As people were able to make do with simply a spoon and a knife, it would take several more centuries for them to catch on with the emerging middle class, but they became fairly prevalent in the United States of America by the late nineteenth century. Poorer families would probably have had at least one fork, but it would have been made out of very cheap material.14

It is unknown exactly when Chang and Eng Bunker acquired these particular dining utensils. The spoon would have come into their possession in the second half of the century since the company Walker & Hall was not established until that time; the fork has a much larger time frame in which it could have been procured. The style of the fork and spoon match, but since the design was relatively common at the time it does not necessarily signify their status as a set, particularly since they come from different makers in different countries.

 

Endnotes

1. Graves, Jesse Franklin. Life of Eng and Chang Bunker, the Original Siamese Twins. Surry County, N.C.: Surry County Historical Society, Surry County Bicentennial Commission, 1970. Print.

2. Bunker, Chang, and Eng. An Account of Monies Expended by Chang-Eng. 1832-1841. Print.

3. Quigley, Christine. Conjoined Twins : an Historical, Biological, and Ethical Issues Encyclopedia. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 2003. Print.

4. Hale, James W.. An historical account of the Siamese twin brothers from actual observations. New-York, 1831. 19pp. Sabin Americana. Gale, Cengage Learning. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 26 October 2012 <http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/Sabin?af=RN&ae=CY111095587&srchtp=a&ste=14>.

5. Coffin, Sarah D., Ellen Lupton, and Darra Goldstein. Feeding Desire: Design and the Tools of the Table, 1500 to 2005. 5 May 2006. Museum Exhibit. Smithsonian, New York City.

6. “Walker & Hall Biography.” Museums Sheffield. Museums Sheffield, n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <http://www.museums-sheffield.org.uk/collections-old/profile?constituent=205>.

7. Newman, Harold. An Illustrated Dictionary of Silverware : 2,373 Entries, Relating to British and North American Wares, Decorative Techniques and Styles and Leading Designers and Makers, Principally from C.1500 to the Present. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000. Print.

8. B., Giorgio. “Walker & Hall.” Silvercollection.it. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <http://www.silvercollection.it/ENGLAWALKER&HALL.html>.

9. McNab, Jessie. “Nineteenth-Century English Silver”. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004. Web. 04 Nov. 2012. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/19es/hd_19es.htm>.

10. McNab, Jessie. “Nineteenth-Century English Silver”. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004. Web. 04 Nov. 2012. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/19es/hd_19es.htm>.

11. “William I. Tenney – SMP Silver Salon Forums.” William I. Tenney – SMP Silver Salon Forums. SM Publications, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <http://www.smpub.com/ubb/Forum19/HTML/000361.html>.

12. Jim Stringer. “Tenney silversmith.” Email to Andrea Chaves.  26 Oct. 2012.

13. “William I. Tenney – SMP Silver Salon Forums.” William I. Tenney – SMP Silver Salon Forums. SM Publications, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <http://www.smpub.com/ubb/Forum19/HTML/000361.html>.

14. Ward, Chad. “The Uncommon Origins of the Common Fork.” Editorial. Leite’s Culinaria. N.p., 6 May 2009. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <http://leitesculinaria.com/1157/writings-the-uncommon-origins-of-the-common-fork.html>.