Millie and Christine McCoy, The Two Headed Nightingale
Today is the birthday of the conjoined twins Millie and Christine McCoy (1851-1912). Born into slavery in North Carolina, they changed hands several times in their early childhood, finally winding up in the hands of Joseph Pearson Smith, who initially owned them as slaves. When freed by the 13th amendment, the girls opted to retain Smith as manager. Billed as “The Two Headed Nightingale” and “The Carolina Twins”, the girls sang, danced, played music and spoke five languages. They were also invariably billed as “Millie-Christine”, as though they were a single entity. At various times during their long career they worked for P.T. Barnum (initially at the American Museum, later at his circus), as well as at various dime museums and sideshows. Briefly in their childhood, they had also toured England when in the hands of a couple of promoters who had essentially kidnapped them. After several years of retirement, TB eventually took them in 1912 at the age of 61.
To find out more about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc