In fact, his family has a long history in the Big Apple, starting with his grandparents. Friedrich and Elizabeth Trump were both born in Kallstadt, Germany, and actually grew up across the street from one another. In the 1880s, Friedrich ventured to North America, making a small fortune during Alaska’s gold rush, operating restaurants and brothels. After Friedrich returned to Germany and married Elizabeth in 1902, the young couple left for a place where all immigrants could find a home– New York City.
The city part of that was relatively new. The five boroughs had only formally incorporated four years prior. The Trumps first settled in with Friedrich’s sister in Morrisania, a rapidly growing German neighborhood in the Bronx. Today, a nail salon occupies their old address. But even though they lived amongst their countrymen, Elizabeth quickly became homesick. After giving birth to their first child, also named Elizabeth, in 1904, the growing family traveled back to Deutschland. But the German government wouldn’t allow Friedrich to regain his citizenship, claiming he had only left for America in the first place to avoid the German empire’s mandatory military service. So back to New York it was.
They found their next home again in the Bronx, an apartment building that still stands today, now home to a liquor store. Elizabeth soon gave birth to their second child and first son Frederick Christ, although he was known as Fred from an early age. A third child, John George, would be born two years later. To provide for his young family, Friedrich set up a barber shop in lower Manhattan, shaving and trimming men of finance at 60 Wall Street– now the headquarters of Deutsche Bank. But Friedrich wouldn’t be satisfied with cutting rich men’s hair for long. He wanted to be the one in the chair. So in September, 1908, he bought his first property as an investment– a two-story dwelling in the Woodhaven neighborhood of Queens.
To supplement his income, he took up a job as manager at the German-owned Medallion Hotel in midtown Manhattan. The hotel has since been demolished, and the property now exists as a parking lot. Soon after, the whole Trump family moved to Queens to be closer to Friedrich’s real estate interests, settling in a two-story house in Woodhaven, still a house today. All was good for the Trumps. But like many German immigrants in the US, they faced extreme bias after the outbreak of World War I. To appear more American, Friedrich dropped became Frederick Trump. Interestingly, his son Fred Trump would go on to further reject his German ancestry, claiming the family was Swedish in order to appeal to Jewish renters, a claim considered by his son well into the future. Back in 1918, America experienced one of its most dangerous epidemics– the Spanish flu. Influenza killed over 21 million people worldwide that year, including Frederick Trump.
Elizabeth went on to manage her deceased husband’s budding real estate company, now inside old Elizabeth Trump and Son, the son being Fred. Until he was of age, Elizabeth bought and sold property, built homes, and arranged mortgages, all while selling for her neighbors on the side. Fred soon took over the business, and, over the course of several decades, built it into the family empire his son Donald would inherit.