Artifact of the Month: Chang Bunker’s rifle

If you’re a regular follower of the Artifact of the Month, you’ll remember that last month’s post featured Chang Bunker’s silverware. (And if you’re not a regular follower of the Artifact of the Month, why aren’t you?)

This month we’re pleased to share another artifact that sheds some light on the everyday lives of Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese twins.

Chang Bunker's rifle

Recently, Chang’s hunting rifle was generously donated by Dr. Vance Haynes, one of Chang’s descendants.

Chang's rifle

The .41 caliber rifle was made by Jacob Kuntz (Kunz) of Philadelphia and is over fifty-five inches long.

Rifle accessories

Accompanying the rifle are a bag-style copper powder flask, a single-cavity iron ball mold, and a copper funnel.

rifle close-up

The rifle is impressive in its beauty and the quality of its craftsmanship. But what’s even more remarkable to the twenty-first century observer is its weight. This is a heavy weapon. To imagine lifting it — let alone shooting it — even without being a conjoined twin is a reminder of how much hardier our nineteenth-century forbears really were. That Chang fired it, as he did, attached at the sternum to his brother is yet another reminder of the Bunkers’ resilience.

Beech Mountain’s Yellow Brick Road too seldom traveled

On this day in 1970: The Land of Oz, a theme park based on “The Wizard of Oz,” opens atop Beech Mountain.

The park, imaginatively conceived by Charlotte artist Jack Pentes, proves too low-tech, too small and too remote — and the weather is often dreary. Attendance is 250,000 the first year but only 60,000 in 1980, when the park closes.

A residential development will eventually supplant the abandoned Oz. Artifacts such as the Yellow Brick Road and mechanical pig wind up in Boone’s Appalachian Cultural Museum  — until the museum, too, closes in  2006.

Pictured: Pinback buttons from Land of Oz.


Where small-time journalism digs out big-time corruption

“Yancey County is located in the mountainous western stretch of North Carolina, about 45 minutes from Asheville. The county’s population is less than 18,000, and yet it has two local papers: the Yancey Common Times Journal, which has been in publication more than a hundred years, and the ‘other’ newspaper, the Yancey County News, founded in 2011.

“The paper’s masthead lists only two people — husband and wife Jonathan and Susan Austin — but nevertheless, its first year out the Yancey County News has won two major journalism awards… for stories reporting on corruption in the county’s official channels.”

— From “The Tiny Newspaper in North Carolina that Scooped up Journalism’s Big Prizes” in the Awl, June 8. (Hat tip to John L. Robinson at Media, Disrupted)

How exhilarating in the midst of such depressing newspaper news to be reminded what wonders can be achieved by two people with a press. Congratulations, Austins.