In 2014, the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room’s Senior Librarian, Shelia Bumgarner, met Shelagh Childs who visited all the way from Brighton, England. The purpose of Childs’ visit was to research and learn more information about her great aunts, Violet and Daisy Hilton, who were conjoined twins. At that time, Childs had only recently discovered her connection to her famous aunts from a genealogist in England.
Violet and Daisy Hilton
Born in 1908 to Ethel Skinner, the twins were raised by the mid-wife who would frequently take the conjoined twins to local bars and charge people to look at them. They weren’t given the surname Hilton until several years after birth. The sisters learned to sing, dance and play musical instruments for public entertainment.
Violet and Daisy Hilton
After traveling throughout England, the twins eventually came to America where they performed on vaudeville and appeared a couple of movies. The duo was left stranded in Charlotte by their manager in Charlotte sometime in July 1962 while on a promotional tour at the old Carolina Theater. The twins had visited this same venue in 1945, but the 1962 visit did not result in the same level of success. Despite the best efforts of William Morris, the late owner of Morris Costumes, the twins’ show-business career ended.
The Hilton twins at Park-N-Shop
With the assistance from Charles Reid owner of the Park-N-Shop, Violet and Daisy found work at the produce counter at the Park-N-Shop grocery on Wilkinson Boulevard and became a fixture in Charlotte’s cultural history until their deaths in 1969.
Shelia arranged for Shelagh and her husband, Bruce, to meet with former Charlotte Observer writer, Mark Washburn. Washburn connected Childs with locals who knew her great aunts so she could learn more about them. After placing flowers on her great-aunts’ grave, Shelagh Childs returned to Brighton where the story piqued the interest of Alf Le Floic, a Sussex historian working with Brighton University. He launched into a research project and began a fundraiser to pay for a historic marker to be placed on house where the twins were born over 100 years ago.
Alf, Shelia and Meghan in the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room
Alf recently reached out to the Carolina Room staff and explained about the project and his plan to come to Charlotte and see what other information he could learn about the twins. He provided copies of some photographs of the twins as infants, as well as some additional historical research. Here is a picture of Alf Le Flohic posing with two NCR staff members, Shelia Bumgarner and Meghan Bowden that was taken during his visit in November 2019.