William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Finding aid created by
James W. Hale and Susan A. Coffin Papers, 1831-1832
Rob S. Cox, December 1991
James W. Hale and Susan A. Coffin papers
Coffin, Susan A.
The James W. Hale and Susan A. Coffin Papers consist of eleven letters written by the manager of the original Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, during the twins' tour of the east coast of the United States in 1831-32.
Language: The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown.
James W. Hale and Susan A. Coffin papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
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.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The James W. Hale and Susan A. Coffin papers consist of eleven letters written by the manager of the original Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, during the twins' tour of the east coast of the United States in 1831-32. Nine of these letters were written by Hale to Mrs. Susan Coffin, and two to Mr. Coffin, one of which is signed by C. Harris. These letters offer some insight into the touring life of the twins, and of their relationship with their manager, but the collection is unfortunately slight on detail and information.
Two letters stand out as more significant. In the first of these, dated from Boston, July 24, 1831, Hale writes that touring plans have had to be modified to allow time for the twins to regain their health after the strains of the previous few months. The second, written by Harris from Georgetown, D.C., 1832 February 8, includes comments on the poor showing in Baltimore, and the hoped-for higher profitability offered by Washington.
- Bunker, Chang, 1811-1874.
- Bunker, Eng, 1811-1874.
- Circus performers.
- Conjoined twins.
| Container / Location
|Box 2 Small Collections
James W. Hale and Susan A. Coffin papers, 1831 March 16-1832 December 18 [series]: