Donald Trump’s Grandfather and the Gold Rush that started the Trump Empire
First Published November 14, 2016
As the dust settles somewhat on the recent election of Donald Trump as president of the united states i had a look at the history behind the trump family and how they ended up becoming one of the richest in America. Continuing on my theme, of the stories behind people and companies excelling in business, the trump family was first recorded way back in Germany in 1608 when Hanns Drumpt settled in kallestadt, Bavaria. It was here the family settled and where 277 years later we find Fredrick Trump (Donald trumps Grandfather) born in 1869 to Christian Johannes Trump and Katherine Kaber who were Vignerons (winemakers). This had been the family business since the 30 years war (The Thirty Years’ War was a series of wars in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648). It was Fredrick Trump who headed to America and led to the current president but he began as a sickly child. In 1877 aged 48 Christian Johannes Trump (Fredrick’s father) died, leaving the family in substantial debts. Being too weak to labor the land in the family wine business, Fredrick was sent to Frankenthal to be apprenticed as a barber, a job he worked 7 days a week for two and a half years.
Upon completion of his apprenticeship he headed back to Kallstadt but found their wasn’t enough business among the 1000 inhabitants. With a looming national service hanging over him he decided to move to the united states. It is said his mother was behind the move but it is also said he left a note and just ran away in the night.
Travelling via Bremen in Germany he took the steamer Eider, arriving in New York City on October 19 1885 aged just sixteen. Arranging to move in with his sister who had emigrated in 1883, after only a few hours and a conversation with a german speaking barber looking for an employee, he had arranged a job and to start work the next day.
After moving around New York to cut costs in 1891 he left for Seattle, Washington. With several hundred dollars of life savings, he began buying supplies such as tables and chairs and purchased a restaurant called the poodle dog situated in Seattle’s red light district which he renamed ‘the dairy restaurant’. The families first business investment in America, placed on washington street, a road known as ‘the line’ which was a road of saloons, casinoes, and brothels (very wild west sounding). According to the biographer Blair it was “a hotbed of sex, booze, and money, was the indisputable center of the action in Seattle”.
Fredrick Trump was made a US citizen when he voted in Washingtons first presedential election in 1892 and lived in Seattle until early 1893
The Gold Rush
Selling the Dairy Restaurant in 1894 he set off in March for the mining town of Monte Cristo, Washington in Snohamish County. People flocked to Monte Cristo (named after the Dumas book – the count of Monte Cristo- were a massive stash of gold is found), it was believed to be full of minerals such as Gold and Silver and it was reported that JD Rockefeller had invested in the area which only encouraged would be gold hunters further. Before leaving Seattle Trump had brought 40 acres of land 13 miles from Monte Cristo for $200, this was the first us Trump real estate purchase. He went on to find a plot of land next to where the Monte Cristo train station was to be built. Unable to afford the $1000 per acre fee to buy the land he filed for a Gold placer claim on the land. This allowed him to claim exclusive mineral rights to the land without having to pay for it, even though the land had been claimed by another resident (the US Land Office was corrupt at the time and allowed this to go on). Without any permission brought by the Gold Placer Claim, Trump decided to begin building on the land. He set to work building a new boarding house which he based on his Dairy Restaurant in Seattle. In July 1894, the other (now probably quite annoyed) resident who also owned the rights to the land sent ‘an agent’ round to collect rent which didn’t work as Monte Cristo was apparently so wild west the people ‘didn’t pay attention’ to legal titles. Trump finally got full rights to the land in December 1894 (buying it outright) and in 1896 was elected to office of ‘Justice of the peace’ – the first Trump to dabble in politics in the US.
After many years of mining in Monte Cristo, it was apparent that there wasn’t much Gold or Silver under its ground and in 1894 JD Rockefeller pulled out all his investments in the area which burst the bubble . By spring 1896 most of the miners had left the area which led to a fall in customers for Trump. Trump; it is noted was one of the only people to make money out of Monte Cristo and in seeing the bubble approaching he had sponsored two miners in the Yukon in exchange for them staking a claim for him. July 1897 saw the beginning of the Klondike Gold rush in San Francisco and Seattle and in the massive rush that ensued Trump sold off his property in Monte Cristo and headed back to Seattle.
In Seattle trump set up a new restaurant on Cherry Street which proved so successful he paid off the mortgage in four weeks. While all this was going on, the two Miners trump had sponsored to claim a stake in Yukon had claimed it in Hunker Creek, a tributary of the Klondike. Upon the initial spend of $15 to register the claim, they sold half of it for $400 the next day. The next week, another miner sold it for $1,000. On September 20th, a second claim was staked, at Deadwood Creek. They sold half in October for $150, while the other half they sold in December for $2,000. By early 1898, Trump was wealthy enough to head to the Yukon on his own campaign. He bought all the required supplies and after selling his remaining property in Monte Cristo and Seattle, transferring his 40 acres in the Pine Lake Plateau to his sister Louise, he set off.
In the Yukon, Trump had no plans to mine himself. With a miner called Ernest Levin they setup a tented restaurant along the Dead Horse Trail (so named as it was said drivers would literally flog their horses to death, subsequently they would be seen dead on the side of the road) funny then that the tent restaurant would sell freshly dead, quick-frozen horse as one of its main dishes.
In 1898 Trump and Levin moved to Bennett, British Columbia known for its prospectors building boats in order to travel to Dawson. Here they opened a restaurant amidst a town of tents which quickly became a two story restaurant and hotel for the local inhabitants, described by a local journalist as “For single men the Arctic has excellent accommodations as well as the best restaurant in Bennett, but I would not advise respectable women to go there to sleep as they are liable to hear that which would be repugnant to their feelings – and uttered, too, by the depraved of their own sex.” The Arctic House was one of the largest and most decadent restaurants in that region of the Klondike, offering fresh fruit and ptarmigans (a type of Grouse) in addition to horsemeat. It was open 24 hours a day and advertised “Rooms for ladies,” which included beds and scales for measuring gold dust. All this was tolerated by local law enforcement as long as it was discreet.
By 1900, a 150-mile-long railroad between Bennett and Whitehorse, Yukon was completed. This allowed Trump to establish the White Horse Restaurant and Inn in Whitehorse. They moved the building by barge, relocated it on Front Street, and were operational by June. The new restaurant, which included one of the largest steel ranges in the area, prepared 3,000 meals per day and now included gambling.
Despite the enormous financial success, Trump and Levin began fighting due to Levin’s drinking. They broke their business relationship in February 1901, but reconciled in April. Around that time, the local government announced suppression on prostitution, gambling and liquor, though the crackdown was delayed by business people until later that year. In light of this trump sold his share in the business and headed back to Kallstadt Germany were he got married. Moving back and fourth between New York and Germany, Trump deposited into his German bank account his life savings which would be the equivalent of half a million dollars today. Soon enough though he was hounded out of Germany as his ‘draft dodging’ at 16 came to light and he settle in 1905 in Queens, New York. it was here that Donald Trumps Father was born and so Fredrick Trump aptly opened a barber shop on Wall Street. In 1908 Fredrick brought real estate on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven where he moved his family into the property on the land and began renting out rooms. He worked as a hotel manager and intended to invest further into real estate but the first world war meant Germans had to keep a low profile. Fredrick Trump died in May 1918 as one of the first victims of the 1918 flu pandemic.
So their we have it. The tinder that lit the fire which led to President Donald Trump. But focusing on the life of Fredrick for a moment i can see some comparisons to the modern internet business world which we can take away from this. Firstly, Trump made his money facilitating people who were trying to get rich. The ‘internet marketing’ phenomenon in the ‘wild west’ days of the modern internet have seen a lot of people getting rich helping people get rich. Trump did this in providing a service for those on that adventure. Now some would (and do) turn their noses up at this type of business (a pretty solid service in any other sector) but, it was exactly that which led an unknown family from Kallstadt becoming presidential billionaires of the richest country in the world and that cannot be sniffed at.
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