Millie (left) and Christine (right) McKoy

Millie_&_Christine_McCoy_c1890s

Millie (left) and Christine (right) McKoy were born into slavery in Columbus County, North Carolina, in 1851. These conjoined twin sisters were sometimes called Millie-Christine McKoy. Each sister had two arms and two legs, but they were connected at the lower spine and shared one pelvis. Jabez McKay owned Millie and Christine, but the twins later adopted the last name, “McKoy.” McKay, who was concerned whether the twin sisters would be productive and frustrated when visitors flooded his farm to view their unusual anatomy, eventually sold Millie and Christine for $1,000 to a showman interested in exhibiting them. Millie and Christine ended up in the possession of Joseph Pearson Smith, who hired them out to various road shows. At this time Millie and Christine also appeared in P.T. Barnum’s famed American Museum in New York City. The twins were kidnapped and taken to England by one of the men responsible for exhibiting them, but Smith eventually found the girls and, with their mother, sued to regain custody. He won this suit, and the twins returned to North Carolina.

Smith’s wife taught Millie and Christine how to read, write, sing, dance, and play the piano; she also taught them to deliver recitations in German and French. The sisters used these skills when they were  exhibited. After the Civil War, the twins decided to remain with the Smiths. They continued to appear widely for nearly thirty years, even returning to England in 1871, where they performed for Queen Victoria. In the 1880s, the sisters joined Barnum’s traveling circus, but they retired to Columbus County at the end of the decade. Throughout their career and retirement, Millie and Christine gave financial support to black schools and churches. When Millie died of tuberculosis in October 1912, doctors gave Christine morphine to help end her life quickly and painlessly.

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