Coffin, Susan A.

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Coffin, Susan A.

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Coffin, Susan A.


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Biographical History

Chang and Eng (1811-1874), the original Siamese twins, were discovered in Siam in 1824 by Robert Hunter, a British merchant. Under the care of Capt. Coffin, an American sea captain, the twins were transported to America on April 1, 1829, to be exhibited before the public. For the next eight weeks, Chang and Eng were exhibited to large crowds up and down the eastern sea board of the United States, attracting attention and curiosity, and considerable profit, everywhere they were exhibited. Their exhibitors, including their manager James Hale, assured the public that the show was tasteful, that "the most fastidious female [would] find nothing in the exhibit to wound her delicate feelings," and that the twins were inseparable, emotionally as well as physically.

After two years in England, the twins returned to Boston on March 4, 1831 to begin a second tour of the United States. Upon reaching their majority, the twins began to share in the profits of their "enterprise," and made a sufficiently large sum that they were able to retire to a plantation in North Carolina. They married sisters, Sarah and Adelina Yates, and became prosperous planters in the slave economy of the South. The Civil War, however, deprived them of their slaves and depleted their money. Chang, always the more volatile of the two, began to drink excessively, and the pair died of a stroke, January 16-17, 1874.

From the guide to the James W. Hale and Susan A. Coffin papers, Hale, James W. and Susan A. Coffin, 1831-1832, (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan)



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