Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins, dancing. Photograph, c. 1927.
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Daisy and Violet Hilton (1908-1967), "The Siamese Twins of Texas", were born in Brighton, West Sussex, to a poor, unmarried barmaid called Kate Skinner. Skinner gave the twins to her employer, Mary Hilton, in exchange for money. Hilton trained them to sing, dance, and play the clarinet, violin and piano, intending to exhibit them. By the age of 5, the twins had already toured Germany and Australia. The Meyer family in Australia replaced Hilton when the twins were in their teens and had them take up the saxophone and ukulele, thus grooming them for vaudeville. The twins' career hit its peak in the 1930s (the decade in which they obtained liberty from their succession of proprietors) but their popularity was short-lived. In the 1960s they opened a hamburger stall in Miami called "The Hilton Sisters' Snack Bar", which failed, and they made their last appearance at a re-issue of Tod Browning's film, "Freaks" (in which they had played a small acting role). The twins died in Charlotte in 1962: the final years of their lives were spent in seclusion, working as checkout girls in a supermarket. They died leaving no will, no diaries and no relatives. A musical about them, "Side show", was on Broadway in 1997
2 Progress. N.Y.
New York : Progress Studio.
1 photograph : photoprint, silver gelatin ; image 24 x 19 cm
William A. Ewing, The body: photoworks of the human form, London 1994, p 263
Wellcome Library no. 33716i