For quite some time now, whenever I search eBay for saxophone collectibles, up pops a photograph of conjoined twins playing sax. Honestly, I thought it was most likely a hoax.
Then this morning, while searching early 20th century news archives for interesting saxophone articles, I happened to come across a story in the July 9, 1934 edition of The Evening News, from San Jose, California. This story made me rethink my earlier assumption about the conjoined twins photo.
It turns out that Violet Hilton and her fiancé Maurice Lambert, were denied a marriage license because Violet was a conjoined twin—or Siamese twin as they were called at the time. It seems the couple was denied the license on the grounds that it would be “immoral”. The question at the heart of the matter, was were the twins really 1 person, or were they 2?
Source: The Evening News, July 9, 1934
Violet Hilton was a saxophone player, as was her sister Daisy. They were actually born in England in 1908, and ended up touring the US, first in sideshows, and then with the Vaudeville circuit.
The following is the cover page for a brochure from Bob Hope’s Vaudeville tour from 1926.
According to the Library of Congress’ Bob Hope and American Variety, Vaudeville page,
Hope’s 1926 Vaudeville Tour
In 1926 Lester Hope and George Byrne were booked on a tour in which the headliners were eighteen-year-old siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. The Hilton Sisters’s show featured the twins telling stories of their lives, playing saxophone and clarinet duets, and dancing with Hope and Byrne.
Oh, and for your gear-curious types out there, this was the 1920s after all, so you can probably guess what brand of saxophones Daisy and Violet played…
Their life prior to, during, and after the fame waned, was anything but idyllic. To get a snippet of what their life might have been like, check out J Tithonus Pednaud’s article, THE HILTON SISTERS – Chained For Life, on his website Human Marvels.
Pednaud’s article on Violet and Daisy Hilton is based on excerpts of the book, Very Special People: The Struggles, Loves and Triumphs of Human Oddities.