Conjoined sisters sit hip-to-hip on chair with saxophones in hand and two oboes standing on the ground in from them. Photo Credit: Hennepin County Public Library

Photo Credit: Hennepin County Library

Daisy and Violet Hilton

Conjoined twin saxophonists

Excerpts from Grunge:

Daisy and Violet Hilton, also known as the Hilton sisters, were among the most famous conjoined twins in history. The pair were conjoined at the back and shared a circulatory system, but the rest of their organs were uniquely their own. Their fame all started with their condition. Being born just after the turn of the 20th century, at a time when “freak shows” displaying human physical abnormalities were alive and well, there was only one path to fame for the Hiltons. The sisters’ upbringing is a tragic tale of strife. Having no clue who their father was, the conjoined twins only had their mother as their sole caregiver, but even that did not last very long. They were born in 1908, and by the time they were three years old, according to HuffPost, Violet and Daisy had already been sold to their mother’s boss, Mary “Auntie” Hilton, who paraded them around Europe to capitalize on their biologically odd composition.

The sisters earned thousands of dollars as vaudeville entertainers, performing with show business icons such as Bob Hope and Charlie Chaplin. The majority of the money, however, went to their handlers. It was a dreary first half of their lives. Their captivity continued until 1931, according to The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton, when they won their freedom in court. Things would get better. For a while, anyway. Daisy and Violet Hilton were 23 years old when they tasted freedom for the first time and were awarded $80,000 by the courts. They became U.S. citizens, grabbed hold of their stardom and partied like rockstars — they had no concept of financial responsibility and trusted far too many of the wrong people. Things were looking up for a bit, it would not last. According to the LA Times, the Hilton Sisters would end up going through even more turbulence as their fame rose. They were cheated by managers, found themselves in sham marriages and partied at a destructive level that left the sisters broke. After a few failed business attempts, Violet and Daisy Hilton would become victims of the 1968 flu pandemic and die in January 1969. According to The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton, Daisy died first. Had Violet survived the flu, she would have succumbed to blood loss, as Daisy’s body went into rigor mortis and they shared a circulatory system.

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