Monday, May 08, 2017

A Family Tradition

"The way a lot of people made money in the Klondike was not in digging gold out of the ground. It was in exchanging property."
"It's the kind of speculation that Donald Trump is doing today as a real estate owner."
Catherine Spude, biographer

"The only reason anybody's interested in it [Fred Trump's Yukon investments] at all is because his grandson is very prominent."
"As far as I can tell,  he was just one of a cast of thousands."
"There was nothing particularly outstanding about him. Nothing extraordinary."
Michael Gates, Yukon historian
Arctic Restaurant

The ‘Arctic Restaurant’ shop in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. The shop is in the same location that Donald Trump’s grandfather Friedrich Trump owned and operated a hotel and restaurant under the same name.

Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

In 1897, suddenly everyone feverishly developed a hankering to go north, really north, to the Canadian Yukon when it was rumoured that gold had been discovered in the Klondike. Eager prospectors flooded to where the gold was rumoured to be plentiful and the nuggets just waiting to be picked up. A legend was born and a frontiers mentality of gold fields waiting o be plucked and a fortune made, galvanized enterpreneurs prepared to go to what must have seemed the end of the Earth to meet their destiny.
The Arctic Restaurant and Hotel in Whitehorse (circa 1899) was co-owned by Donald Trump’s 
grandfather, a German immigrant who began the family fortune with ventures in the Klondike gold rush.
Provincial Archives of Alberta / The Canadian Press    The Arctic Restaurant and Hotel in Whitehorse (circa 1899) was co-owned by Donald Trump’s grandfather, a German immigrant who began the family fortune with ventures in the Klondike gold rush.

Among them was a German immigrant to the United States whose name was Friedrich Trump, born in Germany in 1969 and thirty years later prepared to seek his fortune in the bleak Yukon, but not through the arduous labour of panning for gold, but by "mining the miners", as his biographer Gwenda Blair described his mission. Perhaps the inspiration for that scheme to manipulate others to his profit is inheritable, passed on through the generations through genetic inheritance...?

Grandfather Trump was recorded as living close to Juneau in Alaska. He evidently delegated travel to associates to register claims on his behalf in the Yukon. He was also co-owner of a hotel in Whitehorse. Documents appear to attest to the opening of the New Arctic Restaurant and Hotel along the gold rush route to the Klondike in the summer of 1898. When Bennett was bypassed with a new railroad, Trump disassembled his hotel and floated it downriver to be reassembled in Whitehorse.

And there, evidently, he served at the bar. Behind the bar curtained areas behind which women serviced men became a specialty of the hotel. A local newspaper took precautionary measures to ensure that no respectable women accompanying their men to the hotel would be mortified by what they might discover there. A letter published in the paper warned it was best to give the hotel wide berth by women "as they are liable to hear that which would be repugnant to their feelings and uttered, too, by the depraved of their own sex".

As the gold rush began to wind down by 1901, Friedrich Trump decided to wind down his business in the Yukon as well "He was a guy who left the table while he was ahead. He was good at getting in and getting out", noted an earlier biographer, Gwenda Blair. Since there was an estimated 100,000 prospectors who had set out to make their fortunes, only four percent of whom actually managed to, Fred Trump had plenty of pockets to pick, as it were, tired and thirsty men looking for a lift.

By the time Trump  decided to travel on, his investment in the Yukon finished, he was rich. He had gained considerable savings, said to be the equivalent of a million dollars in the years he operated that Yukon hotel. In New York, his profits initiated the Trump family's real estate empire when the first residential investment was made, in the New York area. And they never looked back. Friedrich Trump's son Fred Trump carried on his father's real estate dream, and his son, Donald J., took up where his father left off, from his grandfather's first investment forward.

It seems evident enough that the man who in the most unlikely upset in American political history became President of the United States -- proving that anyone could, irrespective of political experience, a steady mind and a passion for the public weal, all of which was subsumed by Donald J.'s love affair with himself -- inherited his casual attitude toward ethics, morality and attitude toward women.
Even so, it's a sure bet that the sober-looking, paterfamilias that his grandfather appeared as, would be hugely bemused at the fortune his grandson amassed by means he might never himself have ventured, let alone his audacity in presuming that he had the gravitas, intelligence and discipline to administer the state affairs of the Republic of the United States of America.

Friedrich Trump

Friedrich Trump, circa 1918.

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