THE TRUMPS by Gwenda Blair
Kirkus Star


Three Generations That Built an Empire
Email this review


The triple biography of the entrepreneurial Trumps: Friedrich, son Fred, and grandson Donald.

In 1885, 16-year-old Friedrich Trump emigrated from Germany to the US. He found New York too limited a challenge and made his way to the West Coast; by 1891 he owned and operated a restaurant in Seattle and spent the rest of the decade catering to the needs of prospectors searching the Northwest and Yukon Territories for the next Mother Lode. When Trump returned to Germany at the turn of the century to marry and found that his German citizenship was being revoked, he and his new bride returned to America, eventually settling in Queens. Their first son, Fred, didn't have to venture far from home in search of his fortune: as the farmlands of the outer boroughs gave way to housing developments, Fred saw his opportunity and became a successful, widely known home builder in Queens and Brooklyn. Donald, his fourth child, in his turn looked across the river to Manhattan to make his mark, eventually becoming better known for his public image than his financial and development savvy. Although the use of the word "empire" is debatable, Blair (Almost Golden, 1988) reconstructs the history of the Trump family through prodigious amounts of research and personal interviews. Her work pays off in reconstructing fascinating segments of each Trump's life, such as the history of Seattle's early days, the origins of the Federal Housing Authority under Roosevelt, and the Penn Central merger and bankruptcy. Blair had the cooperation of the Trump Organization, but this is by no means a myopic vanity biography; she works hard to present a rounded picture of each man in his entirety—determined, ambitious, and human. She pushes a bit harder than necessary on her idea of a continuum between the ambitions of three men she calls the Founder, the Builder, and the Star, and her portraits are (as with her Jessica Savitch biography) short on psychological insight—but the overall result has echoes of the best work of David Halberstam and Robert Caro.

Rich, detailed, and informative, and not just for Trump loyalists or detractors.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-80849-8
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2000