Gertrude Hoffmann (dancer)

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Gertrude H. Hoffman
Gertrude Hoffman.jpg
Gertrude Hoffman as Salome
Born Catherine Gertrude Hay
(1886-05-07)7 May 1886
San Francisco, California, United States
Died 21 October 1966(1966-10-21) (aged 80)
Los Angeles, California
Other names Kitty
Occupation Performance Dancer and choreographer
Years active 1900-?
Spouse(s) Max Hoffmann

Gertrude Hoffman (1886–1966) was an early 20th-century vaudeville dancer and choreographer.[1]

Early life[edit]

Hoffman as drawn by Marguerite Martyn for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1909
Celebrated Actor Folks' Cookeries 1916

Catherine “Kitty” Gertrude Hay was born in San Francisco on the 7th of May, 1886, the daughter of John and Catherine (née Brogan) Hay.[2][3] Her father, who was born in Bangor, Maine, in 1843, came to California sometime before 1873. Catherine Brogan was born in Ireland around 1847 and came to America in the early 1860s. John and Catherine Hay moved to Portland, Oregon, where John died in 1914. Catherine Brogan Hay died in 1926 at the Long Island summer house of her daughter, Gertrude.[3][4][5] Gertrude received her early education at a San Francisco area Catholic convent.[6]

She had been performing on stage for some time as Kitty Hayes before catching the eye of actress Florence Roberts playing a French dancer in Jules Massenet’s five-act opera Sapho at San Francisco’s Alcazar Theatre.[7] Not long after Robert's encouragement to pursue a career in dance, Gertrude signed on at the age of sixteen as a dancer with the vaudeville comedy team of Matthews and Bulger and began a tour that would eventually take her to New York City and the Paradise Roof Garden atop Oscar Hammerstein's Victoria Theatre.[4][5][8]


In 1903 Gertrude Hoffman was hired as a rehearsal director at Oscar Hammerstein’s Victoria Theater working with the sixty member "Punch and Judy Co." shows and other vaudeville routines performing at the venue.[9] Willie Hammerstein persuaded her to appear on the stage.[10] Three years later she replaced an ill performer in Ziegfeld’s "The Parisian Dancer" and became a hit imitating Anna Held singing "I Just Can’t Make My Eyes Behave".[9] Over her career, Gertrude also did impersonations of various other performers, such as Eva Tanguay, Eddie Foy and Ethel Barrymore.

Her choreography and special dance effects brought her high praise and rebuke. Her role as Salome in "Vision of Salome" which she introduced around 1908 caused scandal at many theatre houses around the country. On several occasions her suggestive dance style in scant costumes would lead to her arrest by local police.[11] Eva Tanguay, Vera Olcott and Lotta Faust would also find success with the Salome dance. Later in her career she became manager and choreographer of the Gertrude Hoffman Girls. Reminiscent of the Tiller Girls, her dancers used a type of athletic acrobatic transformation of the chorus girl with kicks, leaps etc. The Gertrude Hoffman Girls performed in the Shubert review Artists and Models that ran for the entire 1925-26 season at the Winter Garden and also had long runs over the following two seasons with A Night in Paris and A Night in Spain. In 1933 she resurrected the Hoffman dancers and had some success touring America and Europe prior the outbreak of the Second World War.[12][13] Not much is known of her later life other than she may have at one time operated a dance studio or club in Southern California.[14]

In 2006 the social historian Armond Fields listed Gertrude Hoffman in his book Women Vaudeville Stars: Eighty Biographical Profiles. The Gertrude Hoffman Glide, a two step or turkey-trot dance named after her in 1913, was recorded by the Victor Military Band and sold through Sears Catalogs.[1][15][16]


Gertrude married Max Hoffman (1873–1963), a composer, song writer and vaudeville orchestra leader, on April 8, 1901 in Baltimore.[17][18] Her husband’s full name and title was said to “Baron” Adolph Eugene Victor Maximilian Hoffmann. Though born in Poland most likely of German descent, the title "Baron" is dubious since he was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota [19] On most public records and travel documents over the years, their surname was recorded as Hoffmann, rather than Hoffman.[19][20] Max Hoffman throughout their marriage worked with Gertrude as her music director and manager. Their son, professionally known as Max Hoffman Jr. (1902–1945), was born the year following their marriage at Norfolk, Virginia and would go on to be a musical-comedy performer on Broadway and in films. Max Jr.was for a brief period of time married to the noted “Boop-Boop-a Doop singer Helen Kane.[21]


Gertrude Hoffman died on the 21 October 1966 in Los Angeles, California. She was preceded in death by first her son in 1945 and later her husband in 1963.[22][23]


  1. ^ a b "Gertrude Hoffman". Dance Collection Danse. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  2. ^ U.S. Passport Applications (Gertrude Hoffmann) - December 5, 1916- May 15, 1921
  3. ^ a b 1900 US Census records
  4. ^ a b The New York Times – May 17, 1903
  5. ^ a b Women vaudeville stars: eighty biographical profiles -2006- by Almond Fields
  6. ^ Where She Danced: The Birth of American Art-Dance - 1984 - By Elizabeth Kendall
  7. ^ The Oakland Tribune – December 21, 1919
  8. ^ Vaudeville, Old and New - 1955 - By Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman, Donald McNeilly
  9. ^ a b Where She Danced: The Birth of American Art-Dance By Elizabeth Kendall
  10. ^ "Wm. Hammerstein Dies in Sanatorium". The New York Times. 1914-06-11. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  11. ^ The Oakland Tribune – July 24, 1909
  12. ^ San Jose News – January- 14, 1939
  13. ^ The Oakland Tribune – December 29, 1933
  14. ^ Vaudeville, Old and New - 2007- By Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman, Donald McNeilly
  15. ^ Indianapolis Star – February 8, 1914
  16. ^ "Gertrude Hay Hoffman". Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  17. ^ The Baltimore Sun April 8, 1901
  18. ^ California Death Index (Max Hoffmann)
  19. ^ a b US Passport Application Max Hoffmann) – May 15, 1921
  20. ^ World War One Draft Registration Card (Max Hoffmann)
  21. ^ Indiana Evening Gazette 3 Feb 1933
  22. ^ California Death Index
  23. ^ The Lethbridge Herald - April 2, 1945

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