In 1885, a 16-year-old Friedrich Trump had just completed his barber’s apprenticeship and returned to his hometown in Kallstadt, Palatinate, currently a part of Germany. He soon realised that there was hardly any business there to survive well. He soon decided to leave for America, a pattern of life undertaken by a large number of Germans in the nineteenth century.
The Germany of the late nineteenth century having just undergone unification and then being faced with the onslaughts of industrialisation had to deal with economic hardships of a large section of its citizenry. Immigration was seen as a solution to most problems being faced on German land. Population census in the Unites States in 1860 showed that 15% of the entire population was made up of Germans. In the 1880s, a record high of 1.5 million Germans migrated to the United States. Friedrich was one among them.
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As reported by Ted Wimer in The New Yorker, Friedrich reached America on October 19, 1885 on the S.S.Eider that had departed from Bremen in Germany. Like everyone else on board he too made his way to America with big dreams on his mind and hardly any money in his pocket. He got off at Castle Garden in Manhattan which contained the immigrant processing facility before being taken over by Ellis Island in 1892. Here, Friedrich registered his name as ‘Friedrich Trumpf” (he would shed off the ‘f’ later) and occupation as farmer.
From Castle Garden, Friedrich first moved in with his sister Katherine and Fred Schuster in 76 Forsyth street, the area that is now Chinatown. As written by Wimer, 76 Forsyth street “was a modest structure that is the first of all the Trump Palaces, Parcs, Plazas, Casinos, Hotels, and other edifices to follow.”
The area was quite a crowded space at this point in time. A model of the block acquired from Tenement house exhibition in the 1900 explains that the 39 houses inside this block contained some 605 apartments housing around 2781 persons, and not having a single bath.
In the 1880s Forsyth street was teeming with German speakers, so much so that it came to be known as Kleindeutschland or ‘Little Germany’. Reportedly, by the end of the century this part of New York City was the third largest German speaking city in the world after Berlin and Vienna.
A year after living in Forsyth street he moved around in a number of localities in the city, all of which were abandoned, forlorn areas hardly having having caught up with the fast developing world of New York City. In 1891, Friedrich left the city for Washington State and returned a decade later, with a decent fortune and set himself up in the Queens borough which would be the place where his grandson and the current running president for the United States would grow up.
Friedrich’s early years as an immigrant would be the basis upon which the prosperity of the Trump organisation currently resides. Immigration might have taken place in large numbers in Friedrich’s days, but America was unwelcoming as well. Nativist groups like the American party went about demanding the restrictions on the rights of those with alien descent. America was hard on him, as it still is on most immigrants struggling to find their feet on its shores. But despite all antipathy, America did not turn him away. The country that came to be created by the large inflow of immigrants from all around the world, also went on to create a successful multi-millionaire out of Friedrich Trump and his succeeding generations. Donald Trump might just have forgotten this little detail.
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