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Chang and Eng. From a Currier & Ives lithograph, 1860. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (A021344).

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Chang (11 May 1811–17 January 1874), and Eng (11 May 1811–17 January 1874), Siamese twins, were born in Meklong, Siam (now Thailand), the sons of Ti-eye, a Chinese-born fisherman, and Nok, who was half-Chinese and half-Malay. Chang and Eng were born connected at the chest by an armlike ligament of flesh that, later in their childhood, was pliable enough to allow the brothers to stand side by side. Since no one in the village had seen joined twins before, the brothers were looked upon with horror and suspicion. Some conjectured their birth was a portent of evil or a sign that the apocalypse would soon follow. Although people came from all around Siam to see the brothers, Nok treated the babies like all her other children and, fearing that separation would mean certain death for the twins, dismissed doctors who wanted to experiment with knives or hot wire. Overcoming normal childhood obstacles was doubly hard for Eng and Chang. Perhaps most difficult was learning to get along, as they were of different temperaments, with Chang lordly and volatile and Eng docile and mellow. In 1819 cholera killed their father and five of the twins’ seven siblings, and soon after the brothers were forced to work as fishermen and then as merchants to help support the surviving family. Becoming locally famous, Chang and Eng were summoned to appear before King Rama III in 1825, and two years later, at the request of the king, the twins accompanied a diplomatic mission to Cochin China (now Vietnam)....

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Eng  

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Hilton, Daisy (05 February 1908?–04 January 1969), and Violet Hilton (05 February 1908?–04 January 1969), conjoined twins and entertainers, were born to a barmaid in Brighton, England. Their parents' names are unknown. Accounts vary of the exact year of their birth as well as its circumstances and immediate aftermath, but it is generally believed that their mother, who was unwed, died when they were infants, and their father was reportedly killed during World War I. The twins, who were joined at the base of the spine, were raised by Mary Hilton, the midwife who delivered them. Early on Hilton recognized their earning potential as a circus and vaudeville act at a time when so-called freak shows that exploited human oddities were in their heyday. With Hilton acting as both agent and foster mother, the twins were exhibited at fairs, circuses, and street carnivals. To enhance their act, they were taught to dance and to play the saxophone and violin, and in the years before World War I they toured Germany and then Australia, where they remained for four years....

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See Hilton, Daisy

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Christine Jorgensen Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-89848).

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Jorgensen, Christine (30 May 1926–03 May 1989), achieved fame by undergoing a surgical sex change, who was born George William Jorgensen, Jr., in New York City, the son of George William Jorgensen, a carpenter and building contractor, and Florence Davis Hansen. Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where he attended local schools, Jorgensen was somewhat of a loner, particularly in high school, where he was sexually underdeveloped, less than five feet tall, and weighed less than 100 pounds. Underweight and probably underage, he was initially turned down for enlistment in the armed services after graduation. He worked briefly as a temporary photographer for Pathé News before being drafted into the U.S. Army in October 1945. After serving a little more than a year he was given an honorable discharge. Over the next several years he drifted from one failure to another. He tried unsuccessfully to get a studio job in Hollywood; failure led to his return to New York. For less than a semester, he attended Mohawk College in Utica, New York, on the G.I. Bill, after which he transferred to the Progressive School of Photography in New Haven, Connecticut. Still unemployed, in 1949 he entered the Manhattan Medical and Dental Assistant School, where he trained to become a lab technician....

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See McKoy, Millie

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McKoy, Millie (11 July 1851–12 October 1912), and Christine McKoy (11 July 1851–12 October 1912), conjoined twins and entertainers, were born into slavery on a plantation in Columbus County, North Carolina, in the southeastern part of the state. Their parents, Jacob and Monemia, were slaves owned by Jabez McKay, a blacksmith; the twins later adopted McKoy, a version of their master's surname, as their own. Their father was of pure African descent; their mother was both African and Native American. The twins were conjoined at the lower spine and stood at an approximately 90-degree angle to each other; they shared a single pelvis, though each had a full set of limbs. At birth the frail Millie, who weighed an estimated five pounds, seemed to be only an attachment to her twelve-pound sister's back, and henceforth the two were always known as a single "girl" named Millie-Christine, whom other family members referred to as "Sister." As adults they reached a combined weight of 170 pounds....

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Tom Thumb. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109908).

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Beth A. Snowberger

Tom Thumb (04 January 1838–15 July 1883), performer, was born Charles Sherwood Stratton in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Sherwood Edward Stratton, a carpenter, and Cynthia Thompson. Charles stopped growing at the age of seven months and remained twenty-five inches tall and fifteen pounds until early adulthood. He eventually gained slightly more than a foot and an extra fifty-five pounds. He was discovered at the age of four by ...