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The Lives of Chang and EngSiam's Twins in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Joseph Andrew Orser

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781469618302

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469618326.001.0001

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Under Their Own Direction

Under Their Own Direction

(p.37) Chapter Two Under Their Own Direction
The Lives of Chang and Eng

Joseph Andrew Orser

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter focuses on the life of conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker, more famously known as the “Siamese twins,” in the United States at a time of turmoil, much of it revolving around slavery and ideas of racial equality. It first considers the controversy that embroiled the twins and their manager, Charles Harris, over exhibition tax in Virginia in 1832. Chang and Eng, along with Harris, petitioned the state's General Assembly for a tax exemption for their earnings from exhibitions that showcased their exoticnes. Their petition was denied based on the twins' status and race. The chapter also examines Chang and Eng's use of symbols of class and dignity to position themselves socially in the United States, along with their yearning for privacy. Finally, it discusses an incident that offers insights into the twins' attempts at social positioning: their encounter with Colonel Elbridge Gerry in the summer of 1831 in Lynnfield, Massachusetts.

Keywords:   conjoined twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, Siamese twins, United States, slavery, racial equality, exhibition tax, Virginia, Massachusetts, Chang and Eng

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