Friday, 31 May 2013

how photography helped to free the 'Carolina Twins'

Millie-Christine McKoy (1851-1912), twins joined at the lower spine, was born into slavery on a North Carolina plantation. From infancy onward, she was exhibited to paying audiences as freak, wonder, and medical curiosity at venues such as state fairs and P. T. Barnum’s museum. The twins’ career was managed for most of their lives by Joseph Pearson Smith, a North Carolina merchant, and his family.  Joseph Smith was thier last legal owner even though they were abducted from his care twice by men who sought to exploit them. Smith toured with the girls throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe before the start of the Civil War. During the war, Smith hid the twins near Spartanburg, South Carolina, to prevent their capture. Freed after the war, Millie-Christine again traveled and performed in practically every state, and were seen by European royalty. Queen Victoria of England enjoyed their performances and presented them with jewelry. As she grew up, touring Europe and America as “The Two-Headed Nightindick,” Millie-Christine became a accomplished performer–playing the piano, dancing, and composing songs and poetry. Cartes-de-visite of Millie-Christine served an important role as publicity for her performances.  Carte-de-visite, literally ‘visiting card.’ In an article in Antiques Journal Lou McCulloch noted ‘The mounted card was approximately 2½ by 4 inches, slightly larger than a calling card, and, correspondingly received the French equivalent for a visiting card as its nom de plume. Millie-Christine’s performances earned her a great deal of money and she was able to buy the plantation on which she were born and retire comfortably around 1900..... gotcha

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