Donald Trump’s grandfather Friedrich Trump operated a wild and crazy restaurant/bar/brothel in British Columbia during Canada’s gold rush era.
Bloomberg writer Natalie Obiko Pearson reports quite the story today on the origins of the Trump clan’s wealth in a late 19th-century subarctic outpost.
The Trump family’s gold-rush story began when Fred, as he was known, left Germany at the age of 16 with little more than a suitcase. He headed to New York to work as a barber before venturing west in search of riches. Following stints in Seattle and now-defunct Monte Cristo, the gold fever carried him to Bennett, where he and partner Ernest Levin built the Arctic Restaurant, which touted itself as the best-equipped in town.
It was open around the clock with “private boxes for ladies and parties,” according to an advertisement in the Dec. 9, 1899 edition of the Bennett Sun newspaper. The boxes typically included a bed and scale for weighing gold dust used to pay for “services,” according to a three-generational biography by Gwenda Blair, who traced the origins of the Trump family’s wealth. Of course, in the rough-and-tumble frontier towns of that era, the Arctic’s business model built on food, booze and sex was common.
The Arctic sat a stone’s throw from Bennett Lake in the heart of the township, amid a row of similar establishments and a sea of white canvas tents set up by prospectors. It was constructed of milled lumber and stocked fresh oysters, extravagant luxuries in a place where supplies were brought over arduous overland routes.
“I would advise respectable women travelling alone, or with an escort, to be careful in their selection of hotels at Bennett,” according to a letter penned by “The Pirate” in the Yukon Sun on April 17, 1900. For single men, the Arctic offered excellent accommodations but women should avoid it “as they are liable to hear that which would be repugnant to their feelings and uttered, too, by the depraved of their own sex.”
On this subject, Donald Trump previously told the New York Times that reports of prostitution at his grandfather’s lodging house and restaurant/bar are ‘totally false.’ Trump was born 28 years after the Yukon entrepreneur’s death.
“Before there was a Trump Tower, there was a gold-rush hotel in Bennett, Yukon, where the Trump family dynasty began,” Jason Markusoff reported earlier this month.
“Mining the miners was the smart thing to do,” Blair tells Maclean’s. “Where was the money to be made? It was to be made out of the guys doing the hard work, not out of the ground.” Prospectors were lucky to strike any gold, and luckier to escape the Arctic with any wealth; one of the other famed names to rise from the Klondike rush was Alexander Pantages, who started with a theatre in Dawson and would later launch a network that included Pantages theatres in Toronto and Winnipeg. The Guggenheims would find post-rush bounty with a company that dredged Klondike rivers, but already had family riches that the Trumps had yet to amass.
In Bennett came a warning about Trump and women, more than a century before Donald’s brags about groping women would echo through a presidential campaign.