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MISS MILLIE CHRISTINE [carte de visite (CDV)] by  Millie & Christine; Louis Bertin (photographer)] [McCoy - First Edition - 1872 - from W. C. Baker Rare Books & Ephemera and Biblio.com

MISS MILLIE CHRISTINE [carte de visite (CDV)]

by [McCoy, Millie & Christine; Louis Bertin (photographer)]

Condition: Near fine


Brighton [England]: Bertin, 1872. First Edition. Photograph. Near fine. [1872]. Carte de visite (albumen photographic print mounted on card), approximately 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches. Caption on recto, photographer's stamp on verso. Light wear, upper and lower margins trimmed close, with loss to design element in lower margin. Very good.

Portrait of the conjoined twin sisters, Millie and Christine McCoy (1851-1912), taken during their 1871-1872 tour of England. The twins, often referred to collectively as "Millie-Christine" or "The Two-Headed Nightingale," were among the most widely viewed, scrutinized, and applauded human marvels of the 19th century. Billing them often as the "Eighth Wonder of the World," promoters touted the fact that the girls were joined at the lower spine, more intimately attached than Chang and Eng, the original Siamese Twins. Audiences drawn to see the twins' remarkable anatomy left astonished likewise by their musical talents, radiant personalities, and moving story. Born into slavery in Columbus County, North Carolina in 1851, Millie and Christine were a spectacle from infancy. Already the object of "pilgrimage" by curious neighbors in the surrounding region, by the age of ten months they were sold to a showman for the sum of $1000, and over the next five years they passed through the hands of both bidders and kidnappers, who exhibited them privately to prodding physicians at publicly at dime museums and county fairs. At the age of two, they disappeared in New Orleans, and their legal title was transferred to Joseph Pearson Smith, the guarantor of the manager who had lost them. Smith engaged the services of a private investigator, who discovered the twins in England, and in 1857 Smith and Millie and Christine's mother, Monemia McCoy, traveled across the Atlantic and staged a dramatic rescue at the Birmingham theater where the girls were then performing. Upon their return to the U.S., Millie and Christine moved to the homestead of the Smith family in Wadesboro, North Carolina, where both of their parents and all of their siblings had also been transferred after purchase by the Smiths from their original slaveholders. Mrs. Smith taught the girls how to sing and dance and, against state law, how to read and write. In short time, the sisters developed famous acts that featured keyboard duets and vocal harmonies, with Millie singing alto and Christine soprano. Mr. Smith served as their manager, a role that his son, Joseph Pearson Smith, Jr., would assume upon the death of the former in 1862. While it was the Emancipation Proclamation and end of the Civil War - not the Smiths, themselves - that freed the McCoys, Joseph Jr. remained Millie and Christine's manager for most of their career, and the two families, by all accounts, maintained a genuinely warm relationship. As the girls progressed through adolescence, they successfully took increasingly greater control of both their career and their bodies, refusing further anatomical inspections from curious doctors and scientists they felt would violate their privacy. As their stage shifted from theaters and salons to the circuses of the 1870s and 1880s, Millie and Christine remained wildly popular and successful. They settled into retirement back in Columbus County, where they had long cared for family, friends, and neighbors, built a Methodist church and a school for African American children, and quietly but generously supported several black colleges and institutes throughout North Carolina. The present carte de visite was made at the studio of French photographer Louis Bertin in the English resort town of Brighton, where Millie and Christine completed their 1871-1872 tour of Britain with the giants Anna Swan and Martin Bates. During that tour, Swan and Bates were married at St. Martin's Church in Trafalgar Square; Millie and Christine preceded the pair in the ceremony up the aisle. Whether the photo here was taken during the tour's final stop or earlier on is not certain. Bertin made at least one other carte de visite of the girls during the trip, in which they are wearing a different dress and in which the caption on the card does not include the "Miss" in the "Miss Millie Christine" caption here.


  • Bookseller: W. C. Baker Rare Books & Ephemera US (US)
  • Bookseller Inventory #: 717
  • Title: MISS MILLIE CHRISTINE [carte de visite (CDV)]
  • Author: [McCoy, Millie & Christine; Louis Bertin (photographer)]
  • Format/binding:Photograph
  • Book condition: Used - Near fine
  • Quantity available: 1
  • Edition: First Edition
  • Publisher: Bertin
  • Place: Brighton [England]
  • Date published: 1872
  • Keywords: Americana, Victoriana, African Americans, women, circus and allied arts, oddities, curiosities, human anomalies, conjoined twins, Siamese twins, sideshow, freaks, dime museums, performing arts, England, photography, antique photograph
  • Bookseller catalogs: Oddities & Curiosities; Circus & Allied Arts; Photography;


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