The art of Don the Con

From Drumpf to Trump

How two generations of Trumps paved the way for Donald by lying, cheating, and grifting their way to the top

Martie Sirois
10 min readNov 24, 2021

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Frederick Trump in 1887, image: public domain

Friedrich Drumpf, family patriarch

Founder of the family fortune, draft dodger, brothel owner

Yes, it’s true that Donald Trump has German ancestry. (I get asked this a lot, especially when people want to compare him to the infamous German dictator). Donald’s paternal grandfather, Friedrich Drumpf (1869–1918), grew up in Germany’s Kallstadt region and got his working start as a barber’s apprentice. But at the mere age of 16, Friedrich wanted more.

The Drumpf family had long owned and maintained a vineyard in their small German village; young Friedrich wanted neither to continue that legacy, nor further pursue work as a barber. So he decided to immigrate to North America. By doing this, he also conveniently managed to dodge the draft. Though military service was compulsory, Friedrich evaded serving since he was too young to enlist when he left Germany, and too old when he returned, at the age of 35.

In addition to evading the military and failing to notify authorities, young Friedrich also left his home in cowardly fashion. He fled in the middle of the night, leaving behind only a note for his recently widowed mother. Drumpf then immigrated to North America (as his older sister had) in search of opportunity and fortune. It was upon arrival in New York that he quickly anglicized his birth name to Frederick, and his surname — from Drumpf to Trump — a move that certainly eased his naturalization process.

The newly minted “Frederick” moved around from New York to Seattle to Canada, quickly seizing opportunities in the Klondike gold rush. He followed the path and the people, listening to their conversations, learning their wants and needs (as well as their more private and lavish desires). Frederick eventually etched out a niche for himself, establishing a canteen business along the route, before moving on to bigger, flashier projects.

During his time in Seattle, Frederick Trump also began the family’s tradition — however dubious — of…

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Martie Sirois

Covering the intersection of culture, politics & equality. Featured in Marker, HuffPost, PopSugar, Scary Mommy; heard on NPR, SiriusXM, LTYM, TIFO podcast, etc.