Chang and Eng Bunker (May 11, 1811 – January 17, 1874) were Thai-American conjoined twin brothers whose condition and birthplace became the basis for the term “Siamese twins”.
They were joined at the sternum by a small piece of cartilage. Their livers were fused but independently complete. Although 19th century medicine did not have the means to do so, modern surgical techniques would have easily allowed them to be separated.
In 1829, British merchant Robert Hunter “discovered” them and paid their family to let them be exhibited as a curiosity during a world tour. Upon termination of their contract, the brothers successfully went into business for themselves. In 1839, while visiting Wilkesboro, North Carolina, the twins were attracted to the area and settled on a 110-acre farm in nearby Traphill, becoming naturalized United States citizens.
On April 13, 1843, they married two sisters: Chang to Adelaide Yates and Eng to Sarah Anne Yates. This made their respective children double first cousins. Their Traphill home is where they shared a bed built for four. Chang and his wife had 10 children; Eng and his wife had 11. In time, the wives squabbled and eventually two separate households were set up just west of Mount Airy, North Carolina– 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.
The twins died on the same day in January 1874. Two hundred descendants reunited in Mount Airy in July 2011 for the two hundredth birthday of the twins, which was the twenty-second annual reunion.