For the most recent episode of the CBS News podcast Mobituaries, Mo Rocca traveled to Mt. Airy North Carolina at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to attend a family reunion. It’s not Mo’s family’s reunion, but rather it’s for the Bunker family.
One reunion attendee shows off a tee shirt that was created for the event.
“Let's read the back of your shirt. It says "our family sticks together" and there's a picture of Eng and Chang on the back.”
If the names Chang and Eng Bunker don’t ring a bell, they are the famous conjoined brothers who were the original Siamese Twins. You might’ve heard of them, or seen their picture, but their story is much more than a medical case study.
Born on a houseboat in 1811 in Thailand (called Siam at the time) the boys set sail for America at the age of seventeen with a Scottish merchant Robert Hunter and an American ship captain Abel Coffin.
When they arrived at their new homeland, the twins became instant stars touring across the country.
Professor Joe Orser of University of Wisconsin Eau Claire and author of “The Lives of Chang and Eng: Siam’s Twins in Nineteenth Century America” talks about their performance.
“There were some acts of acrobatic feats that they would be asked to do. These included somersaults or lifting weights or playing badminton when each of them holding a racket and hitting the birdie back and forth. “
But they weren’t just gawked at, they were also funny and engaged their audience.
During one show, they notice a one-eyed man in the audience and tell him they’ll refund half of his admission fee because, after all, he’s only seeing half of the show.
After touring for over a decade, at the age of twenty-eight, the twins decided to settle down in rural North Carolina, and this is where the story gets really interesting.
On this podcast, Mo interviews the descendants at the Bunker reunion to help him tell this amazing story of grit and courage with many surprising twists and turns.
Mo asks Alex Sink – a descendant of Chang - why the twins’ story is important.
“I think it's an incredible, inspiring American immigration story, America was always the beacon of the place where somebody could come and build a successful life, and they came here with nothing.”
For more about the Siamese twins Chang and Eng listen to Mobituaries wherever you get your podcasts.
Check out the teaser trailer for this fascinating episode on the original Siamese twins, narrated by Mo himself!