Odds and quads

Conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker (1811-74), originally from what is now Thailand, toured the world in a “human circus” and became so famous that the term “Siamese twins” is still current.

August 29, 2013

They later went on to marry sisters Adelaide and Sarah Yates, father 21 children and establish themselves as prosperous farmers in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. These items relating to them now form part of the collections of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

The ceramic figurine depicts the twins wearing only loincloths, although the proportions of the mere five inches of cartilage that linked them at the sternum are greatly exaggerated. The base bears the inscription Siam Zwillinge (or “Siamese twins”), so this was presumably a souvenir made for the German market.

The watercolour portrait on ivory, in a lacquered ebony frame, was painted by an unidentified artist during the twins’ visit to Paris in 1835 or 1836.

The case, for playing cards or cigarettes, is made of embroidered birch bark with pine-needle binding.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com

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