engraving of Nora Allen. A woman with a curled updo, earrings, and a high-collared buttoned dress. There is a charm or necklace attached to her top button

Nora Allen in 1889

Also known as: Madam Nora, Nora Seabury, Narcissa E. Swayne

Born: about 1843, Ohio, United States

Died: after May 1937

Nationality: American

Family: Allen, Seabury

Glassworking relatives:

Active: [at least 1869-1894]

Associated acts:

Brief biography

Nora Allen1 was born Narcissa E. Swayne to Isaac N. and Mary Swayne in Ohio around 1843. The Swaynes were an artistic family, so it is no surprise Nora grew up to become an itinerant glassworker. Her father, Isaac, was a painter, as were her brothers William and Harry. She married William M. Allen on November 16, 1861, in Hamilton County, Ohio, and later gave birth to her only child, William H. Allen.

William M. Allen ran the Western Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the early 1860s. It’s possible Nora Allen had a role in this business. By 1869, Allen was demonstrating glassmaking as “Madam Nora”2 and touring with Miss Ann E. Leak, a woman who was born without arms. They demonstrated at museums and in towns in the eastern half of the United States. Allen may have even formed an early troupe called Madam Nora’s Lady Bohemian Glass Blowers.

Allen formed a troupe of glassworkers, best-known as Madam Nora’s Original Troupe of Glass Blowers, Workers, and Spinners in the late 1870s or early 1880s. It is unclear when her first husband died, but around this time she married her second husband, Alfred Seabury. Allen’s troupe included Seabury, her son, William, and later her daughter-in-law, Adalorra, in addition to a rotating group of other glassworkers. Allen herself headlined each show. The troupe toured for around two decades, then likely disbanded in the mid-1890s.

Allen and Seabury later ran a hotel in upstate New York. She died after May 1937.

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