Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Shippen, Junior, 14 May 1767

From William Shippen, Junior9

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philadelphia 14th. May 1767

Dear Sir

I take the Liberty to send to the Royal Society a small Box containing A very extraordinary Lusus Naturae, two female children joind firmly together from the breast bone as low as the navel, having therefore but one body; in every other respect, as well internal as external, two compleat children. I enclose an exact account of the appearance on dissection &c.1 for the Use and amusement of the curious and learned who I am in hopes from an examination of this Phoenomenon will be enabled to throw some light on that unintelligible work of Nature Generation.

This preparation of wax was made by a Gentlewoman who is a great tho unimproved genius in this way,2 Tis the exact semblance of the original which I have in spirits: Your Love of every thing curious or useful and the many favors you have formerly conferred on me convince me you will spare no pains to Make this curiosity useful to the public and excuse my giving you this Trouble. I am Dear Sir Your obliged and very humble Servant

W. Shippen JR.

PS Unavoidable Interruptions from business render it impossible to finish my account of the internal Structure of these children but shall send it by Capt. Friend who will sail the week after next. Your’s


Addressed: To / Dr. Benjamin Franklin / at Mrs. Stephensons in Craven / Street Strand [struck out: or in his / absence to Dr. Pringle in / Pall Mall] London

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9For William Shippen, Jr. (1736–1817), whose medical education in Great Britain BF had furthered, see above, IX, 219–21, 373; and Betsy C. Corner, William Shippen, Jr. (Phila., 1951).

1Shippen was unable to send this account until Nov. 15, 1767. The account of the dissection has not been found, but for the letter accompanying it see below, pp. 304–5. No report of these “Siamese twins” has been found in Phil. Trans.

2The “Gentlewoman” referred to here was quite probably Patience (Lovell) Wright (1725–1786) or her sister, Rachel Wells. They were born in Bordentown, N.J., and practiced waxwork there and in New York. In 1769 (the year in which her husband, Joseph Wright, died) Mrs. Wright is reported to have exhibited her work in Philadelphia. She went to London in 1772, where she was patronized by the King and Queen, the nobility, and her compatriot, BF. She is believed to have acted as an American spy in England during the Revolution, sending information gleaned there to BF in Passy. Her son Joseph (1756–1793) painted an important portrait of BF in 1782. DAB; Carl and Jessica Bridenbaugh, Rebels and Gentlemen Philadelphia in the Age of Franklin (N.Y., [1942]), p. 174; Charles C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture (New Haven and London, 1962), pp. 84–90, 152–6, 414–29.

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