Unknown Photographer, "Mary Margaret Gibb - America`s only born joined together SIAMESE TWINS, Typing – Sewing", ca. 1926, postcard photograph, 57⁄16x 3½”. Courtesy of Elizabeth J. Anderson, private collection, Austin, TX.

Unknown Photographer, “Mary Margaret Gibb – America`s only born joined together SIAMESE TWINS, Typing – Sewing”, ca. 1926, postcard photograph, 57⁄16x 3½”. Courtesy of Elizabeth J. Anderson, private collection, Austin, TX.

Work by an Unknown Photographer from the Collection of Elizabeth J. Anderson

Like the Hiltons, Mary and Margaret Gibb were also pygopagus twins and were connected at the hips and buttocks. They were born in Holyoke Massachusetts on May 20, 1912 without the use of a Caesarean section, making their mother the first woman in the United States to survive a natural birth of conjoined twins. After their birth, their parents refused separation for the twins on two separate occasions stating that they preferred to raise their daughters the way that nature had made them. Their parents raised the girls at home in relative seclusion, hiring private tutors to educate them and in 1926 at the age of 14, the girls went out on their own. They moved to New York City to pursue a vaudeville career, but that same year one of the twins, Margaret, was struck with a severe case of influenza that threatened her life. The twins were offered emergency separation once again, but refused, with Margaret eventually gaining her health back. In 1928 a scandal broke out when Margaret fell in love with an “un-named” suitor who claimed he would only have her if the twins were separated. The twins checked into New York’s West Park Hospital and sought the surgical skills of Dr. Francis P. Weston, immediately becoming the spotlights of every newspaper with Dr. Weston deeming the twins to have only a 50% survival rate. Although the surgery was later cancelled, the rest of the decade brought on large publicity for the twins. They traveled as “America’s Siamese Twins” with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, presumably alongside Liou Seng-Sen and Liou Tang-Sen as well as Lucio and Simplicio Godina, until they took their retirement in Holyoke in 1942. The twins passed away in 1966 after Margaret was diagnosed with cancer with her sister, Mary, dying two minutes later.

Elizabeth J. Anderson is a sideshow historian and collector of oddities based in Austin, Texas. She is the proprietress of www.phreeque.com, a website dedicated to collecting images and narratives about conjoined twins and other types of sideshow exhibitors from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

phreeque.com