Gertrude Hoffman: American Salome

Gertrude Hoffman’s main claim to fame was that she was the first person to bring the Salome dance to the American stage in 1908. Not to be confused with the Berlin and Hollywood character actress of the same name, this Gertrude Hoffman was born Gertrude Hayes in Canada ca. 1880. She started out as a dance hall girl in San Francisco as Kitty Hayes; she later took the name of her husband, composer Max Hoffman.  A performer, choreographer and songwriter, she was already working on Broadway by 1903. She plundered heavily from the world of serious dance: interpretive dance, ballet. Her act often featured an entire corps of dancers, the Hoffman Girls, introduced after touring vaudeville in the teens and twenties. After the mid-twenties she sort of dropped off the map, although some think she may have been teaching during that time. She passed away in 1955. For a real trove of Hoffmanania, see the Brooklyn Public Library’s post on her here and the Travalanche guest post by the BPL’s Ivy Marvel here. 

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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9 Responses to “Gertrude Hoffman: American Salome”

  1. Did she have any children or other marriages. I think she may be my lost grandmother!

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    • Ms. Wollums, this might be a case where your information is better than the historians’! The sources I used sort of had her disappearing for a while at the end of her career. Maybe if you write me offline and tell me a little more about what you know about grandmother I can connect you with a historian who know more and we can solve the mystery. My email is travsd1965@yahoo.com. Thanks so much for writing!

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  2. […] 1907, Hammerstein had Gertrude Hoffman, one of his own acts, arrested for indecency, just for the publicity. In 1908, he picked up a […]

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  3. I’m the archivist at the Brooklyn Public Library, and I’m right now processing a collection of Gertrude Hoffman’s personal scrapbooks, clippings, and photographs. I’ve got a copy of your book, and you mention that William Hammerstein arranged for Hoffman to be arrested for the Salome dance. I was wondering where you heard/read that? I’ve read others who cite that incident, but haven’t been able to track down the original source. I’m just trying to gather as much info on Hoffman as I can.

    Also, we just put up a post about Hoffman and the collection on our blog, in case you’re interested: http://brooklynology.org/post/2011/04/14/Introducing-Gertrude-Hoffman.aspx

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    • Will email you directly re: that factoid. Your post on Hoffman is very exciting — I will link to it from several locations forthwith!

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      • Susan Rix Says:

        Hi,

        My Aunt was one of the Hoffman Girl Dancers. I have
        newspaper clippings about them with pictures.
        If anyone is interested please contact me at
        sjmcdowell@yahoo.com

        I look forward to hearing from you!

        Susan Rix

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      • Reach out to Ivy Marvel at Brooklyn Public Library (see thread below), I k now she’d be interested! And thanks for reaching out!

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  4. Ian McInnis Says:

    I wonder if Gertrude Hoffman’s biography is a bit different than most suppose. I’ve read what Wikipedia has to say and it is quite a bit different than the information in our family records. Our family has Gertrude the daughter of John Hay Jr. and Katherine Brogan Hay (not Hayes).

    Gertrude’s grandparents, John and Mary Hay, are my great, great grandparents.

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