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Les jumeaux Chinois Célèbres: unique pitch card of Chinese conjoined twins, 1901



Les jumeaux Chinois Célèbres. [The Netherlands or Belgium?], [1901]. Pitch card (15 x 22 cm) with portrait and brief biography in French, on heavy card stock, text and image repeated at the back. Together with two bills in French and Dutch (29 x 23): Photographie et Biographie des célèbres Jumeaux Chinois. Prix 10 Centimes; and: Photographie en levensbeschrijving van de beroemde Chineesche tweelingen. Prijs 10 cents. The Dutch bill with annotation at the top: "model van een uitvoering in Fransch 6 stuks", and in lower right hand corner: "6 stuks Fransch". Damaged at top and bottom, otherwise in good condition. The French bill with some insignificant damages along the edges. The pitch card, finally, with a few small dents, and the back with a bowed line running vertically, otherwise in very good condition. A rare (unique?) pitch card with a biography and photographic portrait of Chinese conjoined twin brothers Liou-Tang-Sen (Liao-Toun-Chen, or Liu Tang San) and Liou-Seng-Sen (Liao-Sienne-Chen, or Liu Soon San), together with two bills advertising the pitchcard, one in French and one in Dutch. The xiphopagus twin brothers were born in China on January 2, 1887. Twelve years later, on June 16, 1899, they embarked on a voyage to England, together with their father. There they joined the famous Barnum & Bailey circus, "The Greatest Show on Earth". With the circus they toured through England, crossing the Channel to Europe in 1901, where they visited Hungary, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium, spending the winter in Paris. The next year the circus toured France, crossing the ocean to America in the Spring of 1903. In America the twins seem to have performed on their own. To avoid the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited immigration of Chinese laborers to America, the brothers presented themselves as "Corean". On February 24, 1903, The Boston Globe recorded a performance by the twins at Austin & Stone's. According to the newspaper they attracted "hundreds of visitors" who "went home satisfied that the Corean twin brothers, Liao-Toun-Chen and Liao-Sien-Ne-Chen [...] eclipse as a human wonder the famous Siamese twins". The present pitch card (a proof?) was no doubt printed to be sold on one of the twins' shows in Belgium or the Netherlands. It portrays the brothers in Chinese wear; the image was most likely taken from a photo by Edena Studios. Chapot-Prévot, Chirurgie des tératopages. Opération de Maria-Rosalina. Observation d'un nouveau xiphopage, les frères chinois, Paris, 1901, pp. 37-64; Vaschide & Vurpas, 'La vie biologique d'un xiphopage' in: Nouvelle Iconographie De La Salpêtrière Tome XX (1902), pp. 247-264; for Barnum & Bailey's 1901/1902 tour, see Circus Historical Society.

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