Maud Allan The Salome Dancer Postcards

In the Edwardian era postcards featuring stage personalities were avidly collected. Live theatre had the importance that film or television has today, most towns had several theatres or music halls. Today those early 1900's postcards continue to be collected and some personalities, for example Maud Allan, are in considerable demand.

Maud Allen as Salome
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Today we remember Maud Allan as the 'notorious' Salome, the woman who performed the dance of the seven veils, but her notoriety seems a little unjustified.

Born in 1873 (other dates are sometimes suggested) in Toronto, Beulah Maud Durrant was the daughter of William and his wife Isabella. She had one brother Theo (William Henry Theodore) of whom she was said to be very fond. The family moved to San Francisco while Maud was still a young child and, encouraged by her mother, Maud studied music. There were dreams of a career as a concert pianist and towards the end of the 1800's Maud moved to Berlin to further her studies.

Back in San Francisco tragedy intervened. In 1895 the bodies of two brutally murdered young women were found in the Emmanuel Baptist Church where her brother Theo was the assistant Sunday school superintendent. Theo was subsequently arrested and, after a much publicized trial, was found guilty and condemned to death, he was executed at San Quentin in 1898.

Following her brother’s death Maud changed her name and abandoned piano studies in favour of art and interpretive dance. It was a difficult and confusing time. With no formal training she didn't meet with instant success. In 1900 she illustrated a sex manual for women but it was dance that beckoned.

Her professional dance debut was in Vienna in 1903 and in 1906 her production Vision of Salome, a dance interpretation of Oscar Wilde's controversial one act play, made her a star. In 1908 she took England by storm in an extensive dance tour and she became a very close friend of the Prime Ministers wife, Margot Asquith. Asquith paid the rent for Allan's quite luxurious accommodation in a villa near Regent's Park.

Maud Allen Postcard
In Great Britain public stage performances had to be licenced by the Lord Chamberlain. Wilde's Salome had been refused a licence, it being illegal at that time to represent Biblical characters on stage, but this didn't prevent the many 'private' performances from taking place.

In 1910 Maud left Europe and toured worldwide where she met more a muted success as The Salome Dancer. There was also a silent film (no copies are known to survive) in which she performed extracts from the Salome dance..

Maud Allen Dance Actress Postcard
Returning to Wartime England in 1916 Maud was hoping to revive her career. In 1918 a British politician, Noel Pemberton Billing, attacked Maud and her Salome dance in his news journal. In January Billing had claimed that the WW1 German enemy had a "Black Book" listing thousands of British men and women who were at risk of blackmail because of their sexual "peculiarities". In February Billings newspaper contained an article entitled “The Cult of the Clitoris." in which he suggested those intending to attend Allan's private performances of Salome were likely to be among those listed in the "Black Book.". Maud Allan sued Billing for libel. The case drew considerable press attention where Maud Allan was vilified as a sexually perverted woman, as a sister to a murderer, as having an unusual relationship with Margot Asquith, and worse. Maud lost her case.

After the trial Allan resumed her career, but with declining popularity. She remained in her London villa until the late 1930's, living with her secretary and lover Verna Aldrich. Allan lived out her final years in California having moved there at the beginning of WW2 and was to die in 1956 at the age of 84.

Attached to this article are some of the most desirable Maud Allan postcards, those featuring her in her Salome costume. These postcards can be hard to find and they tend to be priced much higher than other Edwardian stage and actress postcards. Also attached is a Postcard featuring Maud in a classic dance pose. When searching for Maud Allan postcards on eBay or elsewhere it's worth remembering that her name is often miss-spelt (Maude with an e or Allen rather than Allan).
Maude Allan


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