New Yorker profiles Trump — The First Trump

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tags: election 2016, Trump, Friedrich Trump

On October 19, 1885, the S.S. Eider approached Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and the Narrows, twelve days after it had departed Bremen, Germany. As the four-hundred-and-thirty-foot vessel navigated through New York Harbor, it would have passed Bedloe’s Island, on the port side, where an enormous pedestal was under construction. The Statue of Liberty was nearby, in crates, not yet assembled. Like so much of America, she was a work in progress.

On deck, a sixteen-year-old boy was carrying the hopes of his family, back home in Germany. The Drumpfs had long before simplified their name to Trump, and they were shedding the superfluities of Europe in other ways, too. Friedrich, the young man on board, had trained as a barber’s apprentice, but saw little reason to stay in the small town of Kallstadt, in the Palatinate, where his prospects were limited. He harbored higher aspirations.

For Trump, as for most immigrants to New York at the time, the point where he would disembark was Castle Garden, at the foot of Manhattan. Ellis Island would not open its doors until 1892. Castle Garden was neither a castle nor a garden but an old fort, built at the Battery. Its original purpose was to repulse the British, who appeared likely to invade again, when the fort was built, on the eve of the War of 1812. But, as the city grew, priorities shifted, developers sniffed around, and suddenly the old fort was welcoming foreigners instead of defending against them. Castle Garden was repurposed as a beer garden, a musical theatre, and, finally, as the Emigrant Landing Depot, where immigrants were processed by the State of New York before they would begin new lives. ...

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