He worked as a barber and hotel manager, and began to acquire real estate in Queens. He was the father of Fred and John G. Trump, and grandfather of Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.
Friedrich Trump was born in Kallstadt, Palatinate, then part of the Kingdom of Bavaria, to Johannes Trump and Katharina Kober. Confessionally, the village was Lutheran like most of the Palatinate but in contrast to the Bavarian mainland which was overwhelmingly Catholic. Trump's earliest known male ancestor is Johann Paul Trump (1727–1792) who lived in the nearby village of Bobenheim am Berg and whose son Johannes Trump (1789–1835) moved to Kallstadt around 1800. (As to "Drumpf", see Surname below.) The Palatinate, then a relatively impoverished region, has been known for its viticulture since the Roman Empire.
Through much of the 19th century to 1871, the Palatinate was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. That year Bavaria became part of the new German Empire. During periods of war and anti-German discrimination in the United States, Trump's son Fred later denied his German heritage, claiming his father had been a Swede from Karlstad. This version was recounted by Fred's son Donald in his 1987 autobiography.
After being sick with emphysema for ten years, Trump’s father, Johannes, died on July 6, 1877, at the age of 48, leaving the family in severe debt from medical expenses. While five of the six children worked in the family grape fields, Friedrich was considered too sickly to endure such hard labor. In 1883, then aged 14, he was sent to nearby Frankenthal by his mother to work as a barber’s apprentice and learn the trade.
Trump worked seven days a week for two and a half years under barber Friedrich Lang. After completing his apprenticeship, he returned to Kallstadt, a small town of 1,000. He quickly discovered there was not enough business to earn a living. He was also approaching the age of eligibility for conscription to military service in the Imperial German Army. He quickly decided to emigrate to the United States, later saying, "I agreed with my mother that I should go to America." Years later, his family members said that he departed secretly at night, leaving his mother a note.
In 1885, at age 16, Trump emigrated via Bremen, Germany, to the United States aboard the steamship Eider, departing on October 7 and arriving at the Castle Garden Emigrant Landing Depot in New York City on October 19. U.S. immigration records list his name as "Friedr. Trumpf" and his occupation as "none". He moved in with his older sister Katharina – who had emigrated in 1883 – and her husband Fred Schuster, also from Kallstadt. Only a few hours after arriving, he met a German-speaking barber who was looking for an employee, and began working the following day. He worked as a barber for six years. Trump lived with his relatives in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in a neighborhood with many Palatine German immigrants, at 76 Forsyth Street. Because the cost of operating at 76 Forsyth Street was getting expensive, they later moved to 606 East 17th Street and to 2012 2nd Avenue.
In 1891, Trump moved to Seattle, in the newly admitted U.S. state of Washington. With his life savings of several hundred dollars, he bought the Poodle Dog, which he renamed the Dairy Restaurant, and supplied it with new tables, chairs, and a range. Located at 208 Washington Street, the Dairy Restaurant was in the middle of Seattle’s Red Light District; Washington Street was nicknamed "the Line" and included an assortment of saloons, casinos, and brothels. Blair, the biographer, called it "a hotbed of sex, booze, and money, [it] was the indisputable center of the action in Seattle." The restaurant served food and liquor and was advertised to include "Rooms for Ladies", a common euphemism for prostitution. Trump lived in Seattle until early 1893 and voted in Washington's first presidential election in 1892, becoming a U.S. citizen.
On 14 February 1894, Trump sold the Dairy Restaurant, and in March, he moved to the emerging mining town of Monte Cristo, Washington in Snohomish County north of Seattle. After evidence of mineral deposits had been discovered in 1889, Monte Cristo was expected to produce a fortune in gold and silver. Many prospectors moved to the area in hopes of becoming rich. Rumors about financial investments by millionaire John D. Rockefeller in the entire Everett area created an exaggerated expectation of the area's potential.
Before leaving Seattle, Trump bought 40 acres (16 ha) in the Pine Lake Plateau, twelve miles (19 km) east of the city, for $200, which was the first major real estate purchase of the Trump family. In Monte Cristo, Trump found a plot of land near the later train station that he wanted to build a hotel on, but could not afford the $1,000-per-acre fee to purchase it. Instead, he filed a Gold placer claim on the land, which allowed him to claim exclusive mineral rights to the land without having to pay for it, even though the land had already been claimed by Everett resident Nicholas Rudebeck. At that time, the U.S. Land Office was known to be corrupt and frequently allowed such multiple claims. Despite the placer's claim providing Trump no right to build any structure on the land, he quickly bought lumber to build a new boarding house and operate it similarly to the Dairy Restaurant. He never tried to mine gold on the land. Blair described Trump as “mining the miners” since they needed a place to sleep at night while they were mining.In July 1894, Rudebeck filed to incorporate the land and sent an agent to collect rent; this was apparently unsuccessful since the people of Monte Cristo did not pay attention to legal titles. Trump finally bought the land in December 1894. While in Monte Cristo, Trump was elected in 1896 as justice of the peace by a 32-to-5 margin.
Years of mining had revealed that there was not nearly as much gold and silver in Monte Cristo as had once been believed, and in August 1894, Rockefeller pulled out of most of his investment in the area, creating the "Everett bubble burst." By the spring of 1896, most of the miners had left Monte Cristo. Trump suffered both from a shortage of workers and reduced business, although he had been one of the few people to make money in Monte Cristo. Trump prepared for the bubble burst by funding two miners in the Yukon, Canada in exchange for them staking a claim for him. In July 1897, the Klondike Gold Rush began after boats loaded with gold arrived in San Francisco and Seattle. Thousands of people rushed to the area in hopes of making a fortune. Trump sold off most of his property in Monte Cristo a few weeks later and moved back to Seattle.
In Seattle, Trump opened a new restaurant at 207 Cherry Street. Business was so good that he paid off the mortgage in four weeks. Meanwhile, on July 7, the two miners whom Trump had funded staked his claim at Hunker Creek, a tributary of the Klondike. After spending $15 to register the claim, they sold half of it for $400 the next day. A week later, another miner sold it for $1,000. On September 20, they staked a second claim, at Deadwood Creek. Half of it was sold in October for $150, while the other half was sold in December for $2,000. By early 1898, Trump had made enough money to go to the Yukon himself.
He bought all the necessary supplies, sold off his remaining property in Monte Cristo and Seattle, and transferred his 40 acres in the Pine Lake Plateau to his sister Louise. In 1900, Louise sold the property for $250. In the winter following Trump's departure from Monte Cristo, the town suffered some of the worst avalanches and floods in its short history, and this time, Rockefeller refused to reconstruct the almost vital railroad to Everett.
Blair said that when Trump left for the Yukon, he had no plans to do actual mining. He likely travelled the White Pass route, which included the notorious "Dead Horse trail", so named because drivers whipped animals of transport until they literally dropped dead on the trail and were left to decompose. In the spring of 1898, Trump and another miner named Ernest Levin opened a tent restaurant along the trail. Blair wrote that "a frequent dish was fresh-slaughtered, quick-frozen horse".
In May 1898, Trump and Levin moved to Bennett, British Columbia, a town known for prospectors building boats in order to travel to Dawson. In Bennett, Trump and Levin opened the Arctic Restaurant and Hotel, which offered fine dining and lodging in a sea of tents. The Arctic was also originally housed in a tent, but demand for the hotel and restaurant grew until it occupied a two-story building. A letter to the Yukon Sun newspaper described the Arctic:
"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 extravagant restaurants in that region of the Klondike, offering fresh fruit and ptarmigan in addition to the staple of horsemeat. The Arctic was open 24 hours a day and advertised "Rooms for ladies", which included beds and scales for measuring gold dust. The local Canadian Mounties were known to tolerate vice so long as it was conducted discreetly.
In 1900, the one-hundred-and-eleven-mile (179 km) White Pass and Yukon Route, a railroad between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon, was completed. Trump founded the White Horse Restaurant and Inn in White Horse. They moved the building by barge, relocated 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 had space for gambling. Despite the enormous financial success, Trump and Levin began fighting due to Levin’s drinking. They broke up 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 businessmen until later that year. In light of this impending threat to his business operation, Trump sold his share of the restaurant to Levin and left the Yukon. In the months that followed, Levin was arrested for public drunkenness and sent to jail, and the Arctic was taken over by the Mounties. The restaurant burned down in the White Horse fire of 1905. Blair wrote that "once again, in a situation that created many losers, [Frederick Trump] managed to emerge a winner."
Trump returned to Kallstadt in 1901 as a wealthy man. Biographer Blair said that "the business of seeing to his customers’ need for food, drink and female companionship had been good to him." He quickly met and proposed to Elisabeth Christ (October 10, 1880 – June 6, 1966), daughter of a neighbor; she was 11 years younger than Trump, being 5 years old when he originally had left town. Trump’s mother disapproved of Christ because she considered her family to be of a lower social class. Trump and Christ married on August 26, 1902, and moved to New York City.
In New York, Trump found work as a barber and a restaurant and hotel manager. The couple lived at 1006 Westchester Avenue in the German-speaking Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx. Their daughter Elizabeth was born on April 30, 1904. In May 1904, when Trump applied in New York for a U.S. passport to travel with his wife and his daughter, he listed his profession as "hotelkeeper". Due to Elizabeth Sr.'s extreme homesickness, the family returned to Germany later that year. In Germany, Trump deposited into a bank his life’s savings of 80,000 marks, equivalent to $505,248 in 2016.
Soon after the family arrived in Germany, Bavarian authorities determined that Trump had emigrated from Germany to avoid his military-service obligations, and he was classified as a draft dodger. On December 24, 1904 the Department of Interior announced an investigation to expel Trump from Germany. Officially, they found that he had violated the Resolution of the Royal Ministry of the Interior number 9916, an 1886 law that punished emigration to North America to avoid military service with the loss of German citizenship. For several months, Trump petitioned the government to allow him to stay but he was unsuccessful.
He and his family returned to New York on June 30, 1905. Their son Fred was born on October 11, 1905, in the Bronx, New York. The family lived at 539 East 177th Street. In 1907, their second son, John, was born. Later that year the family moved to Woodhaven, Queens. While living in Queens, Trump opened a barber shop at 60 Wall Street in Manhattan.
In 1908, Trump bought real estate on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven. Two years later, he moved his family into the building on the land, renting out several rooms. He also worked as a hotel manager at the Medallion Hotel on 6th Avenue and 23rd Street. Trump intended to continue buying more land, but during World War I, he kept a low profile because of anti-German feelings in the US due to the war. German-born citizens came under suspicion.
On May 29, 1918, while walking with his son Fred, Trump suddenly felt extremely sick and was rushed to bed. The next day, he was dead. What was first diagnosed as pneumonia turned out to be one of the early cases of the 1918 flu pandemic, which caused millions of deaths around the world. He was 49 years old.
At his death his net holdings included a 2-story, 7-room home in Queens; 5 vacant lots; $4,000 in savings; $3600 in stocks; and 14 mortgages. Altogether his net worth was $31,359 ($499,900 today). His wife and son Fred continued his real estate projects under the Elizabeth Trump & Son moniker.
The immigration records list his name as Friedr. Trumpf, but sources including the genealogy organization FamilySearch, a genealogist at About.com, and the 2013 book America's Obsessives concluded that both his father and his aunt's surnames were Trump. According to the German Gesellschaft für Computergenealogie, Trump's earliest known male ancestor was Johann Paul Trump (1727-1792) in Bobenheim am Berg. The story of an itinerant lawyer Hanns Drumpf presented by Gwenda Blair in her book The Trumps (2000) who settled in Kallstadt in 1608 and whose descendants changed their name from Drumpf to Trump during the Thirty Years' War of the 1600s could not be substantiated and is not in accordance with the data provided by the German genealogists. Journalist Kate Connolly, visiting Kallstadt, found several variations in spelling of the surname in the village archives (including Drumb, Tromb, Tromp, Trum, Trumpff, Dromb) but her article does not note "Drumpf".