quarter-plate tintype, cased, circa 1860
Please note the color and shades in the online catalogue illustration may vary depending on screen settings. This tintype is in generally very good condition. There are fine scratches overall. From the dainty trim on her gingham dress to the lace border of her petticoat, a high level of detail remains visible. The leather case has a floral design. It is split at the spine and worn overall, but remains attractive.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.
Joanne Martell, Millie-Christine: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (Winston-Salem, 2000), pp. 75, 87, 143, 152-3, 167, 183, 189, 241
Linda Frost, Conjoined Twins in Black and White: The Lives of Millie-Christine McKoy and Daisy and Violet Hilton (Madison, 2009), cover illustration
Sarah E. Gold, 'Millie-Christine McKoy and the American Freak Show: Race, Gender, and Freedom in the Postbellum Era, 1851-1921,' in Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, vol. 23, no. 1 (2010), p. 36, figs. 14-19
Ellen Samuels, 'Examining Millie and Christine McKoy: Where Enslavement and Enfreakment Meet,' Signs, vol. 37, no. 1 (September 2011), pp. 53-91
‘Two heads, four arms, four feet,
All in one perfect body meet.’ – Millie-Christine
This tintype depicts Millie and Christine McKoy (1851-1912), better known to history as The Carolina Twins, The McKoy Sisters, The Two-Headed Nightingale, or simply as Millie-Christine. Born into slavery and seeded in tragedy, the remarkable life of Millie-Christine was, against all odds, one of victory over adversity.
The daughters of Jacob and Monemia McKoy, Millie and Christine were born conjoined at the lower spine. Within their first decade Millie-Christine were bought, sold, and stolen away from their family several times by showmen who profited off their public display at fairs throughout the United States, Canada, and Britain. Their last ‘rightful’ owner was Joseph P. Smith who, with the help of a private detective, rescued Millie-Christine from kidnappers in Liverpool and returned them to his home in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Millie-Christine were tutored in five languages and became accomplished pianists, singers, and dancers.
At the close of the Civil War in 1865, Millie-Christine returned to the show circuit and, with their newfound freedom, were finally able to draw their share of profits. By 1882, Millie-Christine commanded $25,000 for a season headlining Batcheller and Doris’s Great Inter-Ocean Railroad Show. The twins were generous with their fortune. They bought land for their family, organized a school for African American children, and gave money anonymously to Shaw University, Bennet College, Johnson C. Smith College, Henderson Institute, and Palmer Institute (Martell, p. 263).
Millie-Christine fell into obscurity for many years until Joanne Martell, a former court reporter, stumbled upon their story and published Millie-Christine: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (2000), to which this entry is indebted. Millie-Christine’s remarkable life is now the subject of new scholarship, art, and poetry. Most recently, Tyehimba Jess brought the twins to life in a series of syncopated sonnets in his 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Olio:
‘-we’re fused in blood and body – from one thrummed stem
budding twin blooms of song. We’re a doubled rose
grown from hard labor that made our mother shout,
spent with awe. We hymn to pay soft homage
borne of and beyond the flesh: we are just
two women singing truths we can’t forget’
Although it is impossible to date this tintype with exact certitude, it is believed that this is the earliest such portrait of Millie-Christine to come to market. Later carte-de-visite, cabinet cards, and broadsides featuring the twins are in institutional collections including the Maxine Sullivan Collection at the National Museum of African American History & Culture; Milner Library Special Collections, Illinois State University; Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; North Carolina Division of Archives and History; and the British Museum.