Irony of History, How a Pandemic of 102 years ago, Impacted New York and America Today.


I WAS READING Laura Spinney’s fascinating book:

Pale Rider, The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World.

My great grandfather died of the Spanish Flu in 1918, and so I was fascinated by this book.  

I came upon an account, on page 229, that caught my eye:

“The US Life insurance industry paid out nearly $100 million in claims after the pandemic-the equivalent of $20 billion today.  Others had been named in wills.  Upon the death from flu of one German immigrant to America, for example, his widow and son received a sum of money.  They invested it in property, and today the immigrant’s grandson is a property magnate purportedly worth billions.  His name is Donald Trump.”


Frederick Trump, was the grandfather of President Donald Trump. He was born in Kallstadt Germany. His real name was Friedrich Drumpt, born March 14th, 1869.  He became a barber. He had a sister in America, who lived in a small apartment, at 76 Forsyth St in New York.  No doubt he stayed there while trying to get settled in New York.

He went to NY and worked as a barber for several years. Never successful as a barber, he moved around, eventually followed the “gold rush” to the Northwest, and owned several restaurants, hotels (seems all had brothels connected to them) after he went to the Northwest chasing gold rushes.  

He married, and this is the photo of Elisabeth and husband Frederick Trump, both natives of Germany. 

He changed his name to Frederick Trump, and moved to Seattle and opened a restaurant, later stories say he added  “ladies’ rooms” for prostitutes.

He moved to British Columbia to capitalize on the gold rush,  and set out to make money in the restaurant, hotel, and prostitution business. One of his places was the Arctic Restaurant in Bennett, which also served as a casino and house of prostitution.  He also bought the Poodle Dog, renamed the Dairy Restaurant, at 208 Washington Street, in Seattle’s Red-Light District.  This was a “hotbed of sex, booze, and money” and they advertised “rooms for Ladies of the night”. He couldn’t afford to legally buy some land, so he put a “gold placer claim” with a questionable title in the Pine Lake Plateau, but someone else already had a claim on it, he ignored that and built a building on the land he had never bought. He then was in conflict claimed by another man, Nicholas Rudebeck.  Trump had no legal right to build on it, but did so anyway, and put up a boarding house for miners to sleep.  Then food, then lady’s rooms.  In 1898 Trump opened the Arctic Restaurant and hotel, offering “fine dining, lodging, and sex in a sea of tents”.  The Yukon Sun said about this area: “For single men the Arctic has excellent accommodations….I would not advise respectable women to go there”.  

When the government announced it was going to prosecute “prostitution”  Trump sold his share of properties there and sought to try to regain citizenship. But the Germans didn’t want him.     In 1905 Germany issued a royal decree ordering Trump to leave Germany, because he violated German laws refusing to serve his term in the military.  (Trump had gone back to Germany and tried to regain his German citizenship, but the people there wanted no part of Trump in Germany). He was turned down and  deported. He returned to New York in June of 1905.

In 1906, he and his wife were  living in Woodhaven, Queens, and he started buying properties,  with the profits from his “hotels and ladies’ rooms” of the gold fields.   In 1918, the year of the Spanish Flu, Pandemic, he died of the dreaded “flu”.   The parallel interests and encounters of Grandfather Frederick Trump and grandson Donald Trump are ironic.

Frederick Trump, died in 1918 of the Spanish flu epidemic at the age of 49.  He left his “ill gained”  money and the proceeds of his insurance policy to his widow, Elisabeth, who started a company called: Elisabeth Trump and Son. Elisabeth was apparently a canny investor in real estate.  She taught her son, the real estate business.  He, her business partner, Fred Trump, became Don Trump’s father.      So, the much heralded “Trump Fortune” started in hotels and brothels, and then with the help of insurance upon Frederick Trump’s death, provided the money for Trumps grandmother and his father, to invest in real estate. 

Ironic, isn’t it?    President Donald Trump’s fortunes started with his grandfather, in hotels, restaurants, most with “ladies’ rooms” in the Gold rush, ripe with prostitutes. Someone has said there was more money to be made by feeding men with gold fever and providing prostitutes during the Gold Rush, than panning for gold. Certainly, more than trying to live on the earnings of a barber.

Those profits, plus proceeds of an insurance “death” policy, upon Grandpa Trump’s death, of the Spanish Flu pandemic, in 1918…created the “seed money” for his surviving widow to create the beginnings of a  Trump real estate empire in New York.  That “seed money” was invested and turned into a fortune by his widow, apparently a shrewd investor, who left it to Fred C. Trump (the father of Donald Trump).  Fred Trump, (Don’s father) amassed a large number of properties and found ingenious ways to avoid paying taxes.  He was investigated by the U.S. Government, for violations of civil rights.  Fred Trump seemed to have a policy or penchant for discouraging black tenants in Trump properties, for fear of seeing property values decline.  

Much of the information about Fred Trump has been “scrubbed” from the internet. Consequences on his life have been kept confidential and hard to find in open news sources, but Fred Trump (Don’s father) apparently suffered large penalties for his violation of racial housing laws, at the hands of legal prosecutions by federal authorities.  

Even at a time when Fred Trump (Don’s Father)  was surrounded by legal penalties, he found ways to convey millions of dollars to his son, Don Trump, while avoiding paying gift taxes.  His methods were called” “Clever” but no doubt Don Trumps various business deals which from time to time failed, were propped up, by infusions of cash and “loans” (that would never be paid back) from Fred Trump.  When Fred Trump died, his estate to everyone’s surprise was substantially reduced, because of massive loans, gifts and conveyances to his son.









The Yukon Sun, newspaper, old clippings

H History, Aug 31, 2018 and Jan 17, 2018.

Book: Pale Rider by Laura Spinney  Public Affairs, NY,  NY

Wikipedia, common source, internet. On Trump family and ancestors.

New York Times, articles researching the Trump fortune.