Advertising The Wonderful Two Headed Girl
The Story of A 19th Century Oddity – Millie Christine
While recently highlighting one of the silliest movies ever made, The Thing With Two Heads, we came across stories of other human anomalies.
Co-joined twins Millie and Christine (or Christina) McKoy were famous in the 19th century, sometimes billed as “The Wonderful Two Headed Girl,” “The Two-Headed Nightingale,” or “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”
As you can see in this handbill advertisement from 1855, the girls were indeed connected to one another, but each having their own heart, arms and legs.
However, the twins shared one anus and one vagina. When they had to “go” they both felt it.
Doctors who examined the twins “found a thorough fusion of the lower portion of the trunk, osseous and fleshy ; the two spinal columns uniting together at the base, forming but one large bone common to both.”
The twins even said of themselves, “Although we speak of ourselves in the plural, we feel as but one person; in fact as such we have ever been regarded, although we bear the names Millie and Christina. One thing is certain ; we would not wish to be severed, even if science could effect a separation. We are contented with our lot, and are happy as the day is long. We have but one heart, one feeling in common, one desire, one purpose.”
A Life Of Exploitation From Slavery
The twins were born into slavery on July 11, 1851 at Welches Creek Township, six miles from Whiteville, NC. At 10 months old, they were sold to a new owner. Before they were two-years-old, the twins were being shown for profit at fairs and circuses.
The twins eventually came under the control of Joseph Pearson Smith, a Southerner who used the system to reunite the twins with their parents and their brothers and sisters from whom they had been separated. Twice the twins were kidnapped by unscrupulous exhibitors. Smith eventually found the girls in England and brought them back to the United States.
Smith and his wife made sure the twins were given an education and introduced to religion. Mrs. Smith taught the twins to read and write. They learned to speak four other languages French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Instead of being put on display and taking questions from the public, the sisters developed abilities to sing and dance, and as they described it “thus, while being able to enjoy ourselves, and to employ our time usefully, to contribute in no small degree to the amusement of those who called to see us.”
Joseph Smith died in 1860. Speaking of him nine years after his death, the twins said, “We were old enough then to mourn the loss of our good master, who seemed to us as a father; and we here would render a grateful tribute to his memory, by saying that he was urbane, generous, kind, patient-bearing, and beloved by all.”
Regardless of their appreciation, the twins were still slaves to the Smith family.
Mark Twain Saw Them an Wondered
In the same year as our color advertising poster was circulating, The Buffalo Express ran an unattributed story on September 2, 1869, supposedly written by Mark Twain:
The wonderful two-headed girl is still on exhibition in New England. She sings duets by herself. She has a great advantage over the rest of her sex, for she never has to stop talking to eat, and when she is not eating, she keeps both tongues going at once.
She has a lover, and this lover is in a quandary, because at one and the same moment she accepted him with one mouth and rejected him with the other. He does not know which to believe. He wishes to sue for breach of promise, but this is a hopeless experiment, because only half of the girl has been guilty of the breach. This girl has two heads, four arms and four legs, but only one body, and she (or they) is (or are) seventeen years old.
Now is she her own sister? Is she twins? Or, having but one body (and consequently but one heart,) is she strictly but one person? If she above-named young man marries her will he be guilty of bigamy? This double girl has only one name, and passes for one girl, but when she talks back and forth at herself with her two mouths is she soliloquising?
Does she expect to have one vote or two? Has she the same opinions as herself on all subjects, or does she differ sometime? Would she feel insulted if she were to spit in her own face? Just at this point we feel compelled to drop this investigation, for it is rather too tangled for us.
In 1871 the London Observer said of the twins, “They are extremely intelligent and by their liveliness they dissipate in a great measure the painfulness of the exhibition”
In most news accounts the twins were referred to as a singular person, Miss Millie Christine. The twins spent most of the 1870s touring the continent and returned to the United States in 1878 to a beguiled public.
Throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century the twins criss-crossed the states and Europe,
In November 1896, The Boston Daily Globe announced that Millie Christine would soon retire from the amusement world after an appearance at the Masonic Temple in Boston.
The twins did not retire but did scale back their appearances, settling near where they were born in North Carolina.
As late as September 1910 Mille and Christine were still on display, holding daily receptions at the Detroit Fair. The Detroit Free Press commented that the sisters were about 60-years-old, yet looked closer to forty and were a sight not to be missed.
Millie and Christine had settled back in Columbus County, NC near where they were born. On October 8, 1912 at 6 p.m. Millie died of tuberculosis. Christine knew her demise was imminent and was calm for a few hours. Attached to her dead sister she begged the doctor to give her something for the agonizing pain that was setting in and morphine was administered. Some 19 hours after Millie died, Christine succumbed on October 9 at 1:30 p.m..
The twins were buried in a tamper proof coffin. The family declined a $10,000 offer to put the bodies on display for paid public exhibition. The twins were buried in a Black cemetery close to the cottage in which they spent their last years and two grave stones were used.
On the first stone the inscription, “Mille (sic) – Christine, born July 11, 1851, Columbus County, N.C.”
The second stone the inscription,’ “Christine – Mille, died October 8th and 9th, 1912,” and on a slab uniting the two graves, “A soul with two thoughts. Two hearts that beat as one.”
The original burial site and grave stones are gone.
After they died The Billboard Magazine said the twins “were reported to be very wealthy.”
That may have been true at one time, but not when they died. The sisters were very generous with their family and the Black community in Columbus County and gave away most of what they earned.
For all their supposed wealth and once worldwide fame, the short write-up in the few newspapers that reported the twins passing was the headline, “Noted Freak Dies.”