It was the summer of 1897, and word was beginning to filter south that there was gold up in the Klondike. Fred Trumpf got his foot in the door early. By the time the first prospectors landed in Seattle carrying the gold that launched the stampede, he’d already applied for a mining claim near Dawson City, in today’s Yukon Territory. His signature, “Fred Trumpf,” is still clearly visible on the original application, 120 years later.
By the looks of things, Trumpf wasn’t all that interested in digging for gold. On July 8, he split up his claim, which had cost him $15, and sold one half for $400. A few months later, he sold the other half for $2,000, equal to more than $50,000 today.
That September, he did it again — applied for a claim, split it up, and sold for a tidy profit. There’s no evidence he ever did any work on either claim. It’s widely known that Donald Trump’s grandfather — born Friedrich in Germany in 1869 — got his start by opening a gold rush hotel in the Yukon in 1898 and “mining the miners,” as Trump biographer Gwenda Blair put it.
Blair knew about the gold mining claims, too, and they earn a passing reference in her 2000 biography, The Trumps. But it turns out this lesser-known episode in the Trump family history may not be quite what it seems.
When Catherine Spude first saw the old records, still filed away in the bowels of the Yukon Archives in Whitehorse, they seemed to fit. It made sense, in a way, that Donald Trump’s grandfather would have taken a shine to flipping claims in the Klondike.
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