This Day in History – August 16th, 1829

Bunker Brothers185 years ago, two 18-year-olds from Thailand (then known as Siam) arrived in Boston, MA. Earlier that year In British merchant Robert Hunter “discovered” the brothers and saw an opportunity to make money touring them around the globe. Later the brothers would become known as the Bunker Brothers in 1843, but on their tour they were called The Siamese Twins.

Chang and Eng were born in 1811 to a fishing family; both were joined at the sternum by a small piece of cartilage, and their livers were fused but independently complete.

A decade after Hunter “discovered” the twins, their contract with him expired and they quit the curiosity show tours to lead a normal life in North Carolina. In 1839 they purchased 110 acres in Wilkesbora, owned some slaves who farmed their land, and adopted the last name of “Bunker.” In 1843 they married the Yates sisters, Chang to Adelaide and Eng to Sarah Anne. 

Bunker Twins

Their Traphill home is where they shared a bed built for four. Chang and his wife had ten children; Eng and his wife had eleven. In time, the wives began to squabble and eventually two separate households were set up just west of Mount Airy, North Carolina in the community of White Plains – the twins would alternate spending three days at each home. During the American Civil War, Chang’s son Christopher and Eng’s son Stephen both fought for the Confederacy. Chang and Eng lost part of their property as a result of the war, and were very bitter in their denunciation of the government in consequence. After the war, they again resorted to public exhibitions, but were not very successful.

In 1870, Chang suffered a stroke and his health declined over the next four years. He also began drinking heavily (Chang’s drinking did not affect Eng as they did not share a urinary system). Despite his brother’s ailing condition, Eng remained in good health. Shortly before his death, Chang was injured after falling from a carriage. He then developed a severe case of bronchitis. On January 17, 1874, Chang died while the brothers were asleep. Eng awoke to find his brother dead and cried, “Then I am going”. A doctor was summoned to perform an emergency separation, but he was too late. Eng died approximately three hours later.

Bunker 2

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