The siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton were born in Brighton, England, on the 5th of February 1908 from Kate Skinner, a single mother who immediately gave up on them so instead they were given custody to Mary Hilton, the obstetrician that had followed the labour. The two girls were joined at their gluteus and hips and were sharing their blood circulation; however none of the vital organs were linked together. The foster mother  exploited the two girls peculiarity and promoted their exhibition in local circus and festivals since the beginning, trying to make money out of it.

The first tour was organised in the UK with the title of “The United Twins”; subsequently the family moved to Germany and Australia and finally reached the US in 1916, where Daisy and Violet Hilton became famous artists of the vaudeville.

During all this period, the gaining of the two young girls was cashed in by their foster mother and manager, sums which used to be about 5,000 dollars a week. In 1926, the famous Bob Hope ideated a number with the twins called “Dancemedians”, number which expected a tap dance performance too.

In 1926, when the twins turned 18, their adoptive mother Mary Hilton died in Birmingham, Alabama, and the girls were bequeathed to Mary’s daughter Edith Meyers and her husband, ex balloons sellers.

Below: the two twin sisters with their tutors

The couple took on the property of the twins, almost as if they were a pets to look after, making sure to exploit their handicap and turn it into a goldmine.

Below: the two girls were beaten up when trying to rise up against the rules imposed on them

The Meyers spouses kept the twins locked up in a villa of San Antonio, Texas, where they were practicing their arts such as dancing, singing and playing Jazz. Violet became a skilled saxophonist whereas Daisy an expert violinist. In 1931 the sisters sued their jailors and obtained the so yearned freedom as well as 100,000 dollars of damage.

Thanks to the new independence they had obtained, the two women set up a new number, “The Hilton Sisters ‘Revue”, which would see Daisy dying her hair blonde and both the sisters dressing in different manners, so to be easily recognisable. When the vaudeville lost its popularity, the Hiltons started a career as Burlesque artists.

After having become independent from the Meyers, in 1932 the Hilton sisters went back to the UK and there spent an entire year, after which the came back to the US in 1933. Violet started a relationship with the musician Maurice Lambert, and applied in 21 different states for a marriage licence, but it got always rejected.

The apex of their artistic career took place in 1932 when they appeared in the film “Freaks”, but shortly after their popularity disappeared and from then on they struggled to make a living off the stage.

In 1936 Violet married the gay actor James Moore as a publicity stunt but the union, only on paper, got cancelled after 10 years. In 1941 Daisy married Harold Estep, better known as Buddy Sawyer, gay as well, but the marriage this time lasted only 10 days.

Their career after some ups and downs, climbed the ladder of success in Hollywood one more time, this time with the film “Chained for Life” from 1952 where the women were the vice- main characters and main subjects of the whole scenography.

 

The cinematic career of the Hilton twins saw its end with that film, so they used their past earnings to open up a fast food in Miami. The restaurant obtained a certain success up until when the competitors started grumbling about how the “monsters” were stealing their clients.

The last appearance of the Hilton twin sisters happened in 1961 in a drive- in around the Charlotte area, North Carolina. Their tour manager abandoned them there and them, with neither money nor vehicle to move away, started working in a grocery store where they remained up until their final departure.

On the 4th of January 1969, once the two women did not show up for work, the boss of the shop called the police. The twins were found dead in their house, caused by the “Hong Kong flu”. According to a forensic investigation, Daisy was the first one to die while Violet followed between 2 and 4 days afterwards. In the following years the theory was rejected as the two women were sharing the same blood circulation, condition which wouldn’t allow one to survive the other. The were buried in the Forest Lawn West cemetery of  Charlotte.

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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