Generation I: Grandfather Frederick Trump, the Founder of the Family Fortune
Frederick Trump, the grandfather, began the family tradition of putting lipstick on a pig. He was born Friedrich Trumpf (1869 –1918) in Kallstadt, Kingdom of Bavaria. He took shortcuts that came back to haunt him. He left Bavaria without properly notifying the authorities and dodged military service when he left at age 16 in 1885 to emigrate all by himself to the USA. He followed in the footsteps of an older sister, Elizabeth, who had emigrated earlier to America. He began and ended his career as a barber but as a rich barber who opened his last barbershop on 60 Wall Street in 1907.
The Trump family fortune has its unsavory origins beginning with his immigrant grandfather. Frederick Trump began the family tradition of investing in real estate in Seattle, Washington. He set up a restaurant and brothel, but it was on someone’s property. He undertook some dubious efforts to legitimatize his squatting on someone’s else property but ultimately decamped to Canada to make a fresh legal start.
In 1891, Frederick Trump took part in Canada’s Yukon Gold Rush. Instead of mining for gold, he mined the miners for gold nuggets by operating hotels and restaurants that also included brothels. Unlike many in the midst of a gold rush, he had made money; rarer, he had hung onto it. After selling off his business interests, Frederick Trump left town with a hefty nest egg—once again emerging a winner from a situation where there would be no end of losers when the gold ran out. In 1901, he left Whitehorse in Canada to return to his native Kallstadt, Germany. His wife, a fellow Bavarian immigrant, was homesick for the old country.
Fred Trump returned to his native city of Kallstadt, Bavaria, Germany where he deposited a fortune of 80,000 marks or $16,000 which would be equivalent to half a million dollars in today’s buying power, a ploy in order to please the local authorities and to get their support for regaining citizenship. However, the regional Bavarian authorities forced him to leave two months later because he had not performed his military service and for illegally leaving the country in the first place. The problem was that he had left when he was too young to do military service, which was compulsory, and he was returning only a few months after his thirty-fifth birthday, which made him too old to serve. Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria rejected his appeal to regain his German citizenship.
Back in America, Trump settled in the Bronx and became a barber and hotel manager in Manhattan. He operated a barber shop on 60 Wall Street. He also began to acquire real estate in Queens. He died in 1918 from the flu pandemic leaving a widow, three children, and a modest fortune behind.