Chang and Eng Bunker were born in Siam, modern-day Thailand, in 1811. A five-inch-wide band of flesh connected them at the chest, and their livers were fused, though they could have functioned independently. Despite being conjoined, Chang and Eng reportedly had as normal a childhood as possible. Along with playing with other children and doing chores, they gathered and sold duck eggs to help support their family.
In 1829, British captain Robert Hunter spotted the twins, and their life on the public stage began. Robert Hunter and Abel Coffin became their agents for a world tour, but eventually the twins took control of their own touring. Their popularity left a lasting effect on our language in the term “Siamese twins.”
In the 1830s, the twins used their wealth to purchase land and slaves for tobacco farming in North Carolina. In 1843 they married two sisters; Adelaide Yates married Chang, and Sarah Anne Yates married Eng. The brothers had twenty-one children altogether. They eventually maintained two different homes, and would take turns spending three days with each wife. By the end of their lives, the brothers disliked each other intensely.
The Bunker twins died in January of 1874. Chang died first, of a blood clot in the brain, followed a few hours later by Eng. Eng’s death, understandably, was attributed to shock.