By Mark Trainer
Dec 12, 2016
The story of America is the story of immigrants chasing their dreams in a land of opportunity. It’s the story of Google founder Sergey Brin and business magnate Elon Musk. It’s also the story of the family of the U.S. president-elect, Donald J. Trump.
Long before Trump became a household name, his success story had its start 130 years ago when Friedrich Trump immigrated to America at the age of 16 from his native Germany, landing in New York.
“The first step to the Donald Trump we know today is that his grandfather did not want to be a vintner,” Trump biographer Gwenda Blair told German news outlet Deutsche Welle, referring to Friedrich Trump’s break with the family winemaking business in Kallstadt, Germany.
In his 2004 book Trump: Think Like a Billionaire, Trump notes his paternal lineage had been traced to 1608 and a German lawyer named Hanns Drumpff. “One of my ancestors, a wine grower, changed the family name to Trump at the end of the 1600s,” Trump writes. “A good move, I think, since Drumpff Towers doesn’t sound nearly as catchy.”
Friedrich Trump worked as a barber in the Lower East Side of Manhattan before taking his life savings and relocating to Seattle at the age of 21. At 30 years old he opened the Arctic Restaurant and Hotel in British Columbia, Canada, during the Klondike Gold Rush. He later returned to New York, where he managed hotels and invested in real estate.
Donald Trump’s father, Fred, continued the real estate ventures following Friedrich’s death in 1918. Donald Trump entered the business himself as a young man.
“I knew that it was something I wanted. I was following my dad around from a young age. … I was always fascinated with building and construction and development,” Donald Trump said.
Trump’s mother began her life as Mary McLeod, a fisherman’s daughter from the isolated Hebrides Islands in Scotland who migrated to America, met Trump’s father and became a New York socialite who worked for numerous philanthropic causes.
“Looking back, I realize now that I got some of my sense of showmanship from my mother,” Trump wrote in his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal. He recounted his mother “being enthralled by the pomp and circumstance” of watching Queen Elizabeth’s coronation on television. “She always had a flair for the dramatic and grand.”