An update on my four-legged cousin…and reader comments about

My cousin Josephine...

My cousin Josephine...

Dear Blog Readers, As most people don’t bother reading comments on blogs…I thought I’d pass along a couple regarding my previous entry on my famous four-legged cousin Josephine Myrtle Corbin…and one person has an odd family member story of their own!!
 

From Paul:

Wow Donna that is fascinating! I’m that type of nerd that likes to learn about all those medical anomalies. I spend a day of my anniversary a few years ago at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. It has an extensive collection of genetic abnormalities, particular Siamese twins. It is a very interesting museum and I can’t remember if I saw your cousin there but I’m sure she probably is mentioned at least.”

Paul… your anniversary? That’s so romantic. Anyway, I went to the Mutter Museum website and provided a link above….(which they saw)….and have communicated with them…you may find this email from their communications manager J. Nathan Bazzell at the College of Physicians in Philadelphia,  interesting:

Hello Ms. Hamilton,                I have asked the Library and Museum to look into this.  I recognized the photo on your site as one that we have in the collection. I am hoping that the library and museum can shed more light on what exactly we have.  The College of Physicians of Philadelphia has one of the most important  historical medical libraries in the world, so I would be surprised if they did not have some sort of record.  The Museum has an extensive collection of historical photos, including some that I saw on your site.  I will let you know as soon as I hear back from them.

This from Brian: 

That’s amazing Donna,
I could assume back in that day, women usually wore dresses more often. Do you know if she wore long dresses to cover up the middle legs sometimes, and can you imagine in today’s society how she would deal with it
?”

I don’t know the answer to that Brian, but would guess she did….why wouldn’t she?

And from M.D….I saved the best for last, and thanks for the smile!!

I saw this on the news today, and had to check it out! Well, Donna, I’m not related to you, or Josie, but do have a similar, much more recent story. My own mother was supposed to be a twin, but the only thing that developed of her sister, was the internal reproductive organs. That twin never separated, so my mom was born with 2 sets of internal reproductive organs, but looks completely normal on the outside. My brother and I both happened to develop in the smaller set of organs, so, technically, we were born to our aunt, who, herself, was never born. Yeah, go figure that one out! Unfortunately, I didn’t quite understand all this until much later in life. I sure wish I had known about it sooner; can you imagine a teenager yelling “Why? You’re not my mother ! ”

And I thought some of you would find the following information on Josephine (they refer to her Mrs. B, as her married name was Bicknell) interesting…a few more details…and a little gruesome… from Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine
by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle:

Wells a describes Mrs. B., aged twenty, still alive and healthy. The duplication in this case begins just above the waist, the spinal column dividing at the third lumbar vertebra, below this point everything being double.

Micturition and defecation occur at different times, but menstruation occurs simultaneously. She was married at nineteen, and became pregnant a year later on the left side, but abortion was induced at the fourth month on account of persistent nausea and the expectation of impossible delivery.

Whaley, in speaking of this case, said Mrs. B. utilized her outside legs for walking; he also remarks that when he informed her that she was pregnant on the left side she replied,
‘I think you are mistaken; if it had been on my right side I would come nearer believing it;’–and after further questioning he found, from the patient’s observation, that her right genitals were almost invariably used for coitus.
(the name Mrs. B. refers to Myrtle’s married name, Bicknell.)

And as you know, gentle readers, she did go on to give birth to five children. According to one account I read online, and which I have no way to know if it’s true….they said at one point when she was young, Josephine made $450 a week traveling with a sideshow…that’s a fortune in those days. What a story!

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3 Responses

  1. I read your posting regarding our Mutter Museum collection of conjoined twins items. We do have materials related to Josephine Myrtle Corbin. We are currently rotating several exhibits including those on parasytic conjoinings. We would welcome the opportunity to show you our collections related to this individual. Please feel free to contact me at the Museum.

  2. Wow, a private viewing invitation! I meant to type spent a day of my anniversary weekend, sorry

  3. The Mutter Museum is amazing!!! I went to college in Philly and went there then, and it is such a fascinating place to visit. And since almost no one knows that it exists (well, until now!) there are no crowds. Anyone who is interested in the history of medicine should check it out.

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