Donald John Trump was born on 14 June 1946 in the Queens borough of New York to a Scottish immigrant mother Mary Anne MacLeod and American father Fred Trump.
Donald’s mother was born on 10th May 1912 and emigrated from the Isle of Lewis on the Outer Hebrides to the US in 1930 officially becoming an American citizen in 1942. She married Fred Trump in 1936 after meeting him at a dance where the two fell in love.
Fred Trump was born on 11th October 1905 in The Bronx, New York to German-born parents, Elizabeth Christ and Frederick Trump Sr. Frederick Sr. made his modest fortune in the hotel and restaurant business, capitalising on the Canadian gold rush and using profits to purchase property in New York where the family were based. When he died in 1918, Fred Trump and his mother Elizabeth continued the family business.
Fred Trump was just 17 years old when he completed his first property construction and as he was still under the age of 18 he formed a company with his mother Elizabeth, E. Trump & Son which he officially took over at the age of 21. By this time Fred had already built 20 homes in Queens and it was the beginning of a vast career of property construction in the Queens area of New York, providing affordable housing for many families of middle or lower incomes, the most successful of which was Trump Village, a 7-building apartment complex in the Coney Island area of Brooklyn.
Fred Trump and Mary Anne Trump had five children together. Their first child Maryann was born in 1937, then Frederick Christ Trump Jr., the son and heir, was born in 1938. Elizabeth Trump, named after her grandmother, was born in 1942, followed by the two youngest boys, Donald born in 1946 and Robert in 1948.
Donald’s upbringing was one of privilege and expectation and his mother Mary noted that Donald showed an early pre-disposition towards acquisition and property, recalling an incident between Donald, his little brother Robert and a set of building blocks. Donald borrowed his brother’s blocks, before glueing them to his own blocks, making his building larger and by glueing them ensured they were unable to be separated from his own.
Donald attended the private Kew-Forest School in Queens from Kindergarten to the age of thirteen when his father enrolled him into the New York Military Academy where he boarded until the age of eighteen. He continued his further education at Fordham University in New York but then transferred to the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania because it offered a real-estate studies course. He studied and worked alongside his father in the family business, graduating in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics.
Despite attending military school, Donald Trump did not serve in the armed forces, gaining four student deferments and one medical deferment during the Vietnam War as well as gaining a high number in the draft lottery during this time which meant he was less likely to be conscripted which indeed never happened.
From 1968 to 1974 Donald worked for the family company, eventually becoming President of the company in that year. He worked on getting used to the business, learning the ropes from his father and familiarising himself with the who’s who of New York politics, society and business.
Donald really emerged as an individual through the 1980’s when he moved his sights from the relative small-world of Brooklyn real estate to the ‘big apple’ in Manhattan. Family friend Nikki Haskell said “you want to do something small, you do it in Brooklyn. You want to do something big, you do it in Manhattan. There’s no comparison.” Donald was playing for higher stakes and much higher rewards with a move to Manhattan property.
In 1976 he purchased the Commodore Hotel, a 1919 hotel which he refurbished and opened two years later as the Grand Hyatt, gaining a 40year multi-million-dollar tax break saving him approximately $160million.
However, it was his next project which was to really cement his name in the real estate business. Where the Grand Hyatt had been a refurbishing project, his purchase of the Bonwit Teller building at the corner of 5th Avenue and 56th Street was to be a complete demolition and rebuild project. He had once called this building the most “prime piece of real estate in Manhattan” and whilst no-one thought he could acquire it, in 1980 he did just that, demolishing the existing art deco building, despite promising several architectural motifs and statues to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Quote: Around this time Donald was interviewed by NBC’s Rona Barrett on a show called Rona Barrett Looks at Today’s Super Rich. She asked him,
R: “Do you think that the acquisition of wealth is an absolute aphrodisiac?”
To which he replied,
D: “No. Not at all. In fact, I think in many cases it creates problems that you normally wouldn’t have”
The new building was to become the iconic Trump Towers building and during its construction Donald worked on the marking and PR for the project doing countless interviews with magazines, newspapers, television shows and journalists; he even managed to secure a Vogue cover with the Trump Tower silhouette, a beautiful red-lipped woman kissing the building, and the caption “I love Trump Tower.”
The building was completed in 1983 with a grand gala opening and huge press coverage which claimed that per square foot, Trump Tower was the most expensive building in Manhattan with its expanse of gold, glittering chandeliers and waterfall features. Despite the huge success of the building, Donald immediately began to pursue another tax relief for Trump Towers, which NY Mayor Koch had been vehemently blocking. Donald employed infamous New York attorney Roy Cohn who had connections in many societal groups including the mafia, to sue the City of New York and in an unprecedented result, Donald won a $74million tax break in 1984 for Trump Towers.
What this success did is introduce the general public to the forceful, determined nature of Donald Trump and is one of the first instances where he used the media to discredit his opposition, thereby increasing his chances of success.
Donald Trump began to see that the opinions of the New York public could be used to garner support for things he wanted to achieve, and in 1985 an opportunity presented itself for him to prove his benevolence and generosity to the people of New York. The Wollman Rink in Central Park had been closed in 1980 for renovations which had originally been estimated at $9.1 million dollars but six years later the project had still not been completed. Donald Trump claimed to be able to finish the project in six months for just $3million. After some initial resistance from Mayor Koch who did not want to be seen as a failure, Trump gained the rights to the project and completed the restoration in four months and finished under budget. One reason for this is that the construction company HRH Construction was not paid a fee for the work on the understanding that they would receive publicity for the work. This was not forthcoming, and HRH Construction was the first of many companies who would be promised either money or publicity from Trump and yet receive none.
Quote: When Donald was having trouble acquiring land for a project he was asked: “what happens if you don’t get this?”; he replied, “What I’ll do is wait for a more progressive administration, but more importantly I’ll wait for bad times. When bad times come, then I’ll get whatever I want.”
Quote: From the 1980 Rona Barrett interview,
R: “If you lost your fortune today, what would you do tomorrow?”
D: “Maybe I’d run for President? – No, I’m only kidding”
In 1981 Ronald Regan had been elected as the 40th President and this heralded a time of growth and opportunity for business owners. Trump jumped upon the opportunity this afforded and began to grow his empire. This would be the period of major success for Trump.
1984 and 1985 saw Trump diversify into a new business venture. In 1984 he purchased his first casino in Atlantic City and called it Trump Plaza. In 1985, he opened Trump Circus which opened with a first month’s profits of $21million, an Atlantic City record. These ventures proved incredibly successful for Donald Trump who had set his wife Ivana Trump at the helm of Trump Circus, and employee Steven Hyde as Chief Executive of Trump Plaza.
Ivana Zelnickova was born in 1949 in the present day the Czech Republic. She modelled from her early teen years before marrying an Austrian real estate agent and moving to Canada. The marriage is rumoured to have been arranged to help Ivanka get a green card and didn’t last more than a few months, the couple splitting soon after she gained permanent residency. She moved to New York City where she met Donald Trump and married him less than a year later. Ivana simultaneously succeeded in her role as society lady as well as that of a businesswoman, supporting Donald in both areas of his life.
Life for Trump was going well – he had amassed such a wealth that in the mid-80’s he went on what friends and acquaintances have called a “manic shopping spree” – he bought an airline, a yacht, a football team, the Mar-a-Lago estate, and a private jet. It was also at this time that he commissioned writer Tony Schwartz to ghostwrite a biography of his success called “The Art of the Deal” which sat at the number 1 book on the New York Times Best Seller List for 13 weeks and which has been credited with making Trump a “household name.”
In the late 80’s rumours began to surface about a liaison between Trump and a young female model by the name of Marla Maples. It was around this same time in March 1988 that the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan was placed on the market and Trump purchased it, placing Ivana at the helm of the hotel in what, some said, was a ruse to get her out of the way and leave him free to see Marla. When questioned by a journalist as to why he purchased the Plaza, he stated that his office window overlooked the hotel and he would hate to have to overlook a building which was owned by someone else, so he bought it first.
In April 1988 Trump purchased his third casino in Atlantic City, the partially built Taj Mahal. This is the first time that we see Trump really taking a financial risk on his business. In order to complete the purchase, Trump had to borrow $675million at an interest rate of 14% from the bonds market. This was an incredible loan which meant that once the casino was open and running they would need to take over $1million a day to break even.
Just 18months later the risk Trump had taken went spectacularly wrong. Black Friday, as 13 October 1989 was known, was a stock crash that happened on Wall Street. This signalled the beginning of a crisis period for Trump. He spent the next six months avoiding debtors and contractors who were asking for payments from loans and work to the new casino. He officially opened the Taj Mahal in April 1990, but the opening was overshadowed by suppliers and contractors who were not paid for the work they did and just two years later Trump placed the casino into bankruptcy.
Amidst this disaster Trump releases his second book “Trump: Surviving at the Top” which detailed how he managed to remain successful as well as addressing issues in his personal life such as his marriage to Ivana and relationship with Marla Maples.
In 1993 Donald was in an on-off relationship with Marla Maples and became a father for the fourth time. Shortly afterwards he married Marla at The Plaza hotel in New York City, adding the cost of the hugely extravagant wedding to the spiralling debts of the hotel and the business.
By 1994 Trump was unable to avoid his debts and in an effort to free up capital he decided to sell shares in his own business empire. He also sells Trump airline, his super yacht and The Plaza hotel. In total the sales bring in over a billion dollars, helping to keep his business afloat.
This turnaround is used by Trump and his PR team to show how he “cannot fail” and in 1997 he releases his third book “The Art of the Comeback” which he co-writes with journalist Kate Bohner.
Trump’s political interests have been commented on throughout his business career and in the 80s and 90s, he had been asked several times whether he wanted to go into politics but had never shown any interest. However, in 1998 ex-wrestler, Jesse Ventura became state governor of Minnesota and this transition from celebrity to politician piqued Trump’s interest. Jesse’s political campaign had consisted of speaking ill of his rivals, supposedly “exposing” the corruption in politics and challenging the press. For Trump, who relied heavily on PR and his relationship with the press, this was an intriguing tactic and one which he wanted more information about. He went to Minnesota on a number of occasions to learn more about Ventura’s campaign.
From 1999-2000 there was a lot of suggestion that Trump may be about to run for President against George W. Bush. Trump purposefully plays the media, not confirming for months whether he will run or not. He meets Jesse Ventura again who tells him, “hold a rally, an event – say some stupid things to get press […] tell people what you think – if they think you’re telling the truth, they’ll get excited and they’ll support you.” This advice is clearly used by Trump in future years during his presidential campaign even though he decides not to run in the 2001 election.
Rather than launching full time into politics, Trump begins a new venture – he combines his business reputation with the media to create an entertainment show called The Apprentice where he takes a number of emerging businessmen and women and has them compete against each other for the prize of an internship in the Trump empire. The show is an enormous success and gains Trump a new generation of followers, people who were too young to remember his failures of the 70s and 80s.
In 2012, just as Barak Obama is re-elected for another term as President, Trump reconsiders the question of standing as president. He had joined Twitter in May 2009 and quickly established a voice for himself on the social platform, tweeting about what he saw as the problem with politics and government. What Trump found was a community of online people who thought like him, had similar beliefs as him, and who he could communicate with directly and get their opinions directly back to him. One tweet he received in his first year on Twitter said “@realdonaldtrump what we need in Washington is a business owner! You need to run for President!” – social media was allowing Trump to gain real-time feedback from the public on what he was doing and planning going forward.
Around this time, he spoke at a Conservative Political Action Conference for “grassroots conservatives” – his words fired up the audience and his advisors saw for the first time that he could have real influence and support for his political thoughts.
Following his re-election, Barak Obama was besieged by Trump who attempted to undermine his validity as an American citizen, questioning his birth status and asking Obama to release his full birth certificate to show the country that he was indeed an American citizen. There was much back and forth in the media and between Obama and Trump but eventually, the matter was addressed and Obama presented a full, legitimate birth certificate.
Following this, at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, Obama mocked Trump for the birth certificate issue, likening it to conspiracy theories such as the moon landing and Roswell. He also suggested what a Trump presidency would look like, showing a graphic of a White House with a hotel and casino attached and hot tub on the lawn. This publicly humiliated Trump and some people close to him think this sparked him to run for president – to show the “mocking” elite that he could do it.
Following this, Trump trademarks the phrase which has been used by many presidents during their election campaigns, “Make America Great Again” and begins to use it as he embarks on the path to the presidency.
From 2012 to 2015 he used social media platforms such as Twitter to gain a following and to speak openly about what he thought American needed to become great again. He also worked on expanding his empire, continuing to host The Apprentice and planning new business ventures.
In June 2015 he opened Trump Turnberry Golf Resort in Scotland and during an interview was asked about his intention to run for the presidency. At that time, he did not agree or disagree with the rumours, leading many to believe this was simply another PR stunt to get his name in the papers, similar to that of the 2000 election, however, on 16 June 2015 Donald Trump announced from his headquarters at Trump Towers that he intended to run for the presidency in 2016.
Quote – “The world laughs at us. They won’t be laughing if I’m President”
The news shocked the world – many believed that a businessman with such a rollercoaster career, not to mention his extreme republican views, was not fit to run as President of the United States. Others firmly believed that Trump’s outspoken nature, business acumen and ardent desire to put America first made him the ideal candidate of the times – a man who would shake up the system.
It has been suggested by Trump’s advisors that many of the issues that were added to his campaign were chosen using the power of Twitter. Trump would tweet an issue or a statement relating to policy, government, overseas issues or more, and if the tweet for over 1000 retweet, it was added to the campaign strategy to consider. What this meant is that Trump was speaking directly to his followers, gaining their opinions on his thoughts and beliefs, and turning that support into a campaign which showed his followers that he would act upon their wishes. It is the first time in history that a Presidential candidate has used social media as a major political tool.
On 6 August 2015 during one of his first campaign debates, the debut Republican presidential debate, Trump attacked one of the moderators of the debate, Megyn Kelly who questioned him regarding derogatory comments he had previously made towards women, commenting, “you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.” In the second debate in September of the same year, Trump applied a classic Jesse Ventura tactic and made character attacks against other candidates in the debate.
He made several promises during his candidacy including “simplifying the tax code”, “growing the economy”, “building a wall to keep the Mexicans out”, deporting Syrian refugees who “could be ISIS”, creating a database to track Muslims across the United States, changing the nature of the trade deal with China to America’s benefit, and more. He has also repeatedly claimed that he is pro-life and has made several statements where he claims to want to make abortion illegal in the US.
QUOTE: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters”
Trump eventually wins out as the Republican candidate and Hillary Clinton is elected as the Democratic candidate.
In July 2016 Trump announces that Mike Pence, who had previously served in the U.S. House for 12 years would be his vice-presidential running mate and VP should he succeed as President.
7 October 2016 saw one of the most controversial moments of Trumps candidacy when an audio tape recording from 2005 was released of Trump describing sexual aggression towards women:
QUOTE “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women. I just start kidding them. It’s like a magnet. You just kiss. I don’t even wait. When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything”
Whilst many people snickered about Trumps candidacy, one by one he eliminated his competition to become president-elect.
On 8 November 2016 American’s voted across the country for their next president. Despite many people around the world thinking it was impossible, Donald J. Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America with 304 electoral votes, 34 more than is required to win, compared to Hilary Clinton who received 227 votes.
Trump was officially inaugurated as president on 20 January 2017 after the handover period from Obama.
In the first 18months of his presidency, Trump has rocked the political and social boat. He continues to tweet regularly in the informal and outspoken style which is his calling card. He has tweeted over 2,000 times and his tweets are mainly to attack people who criticise or oppose him and are designed to be inflammatory and cause a reaction.
In his first year in office, Trump’s presidency was plagued with controversy and scandal. He has been accused of inciting tension between American and Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, creating a “war of words” on Twitter. He also pulled America out of the Paris Accord on climate change, backed out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (the world largest regional free-trade agreement) and undermined the Iranian Nuclear Deal, although he hasn’t quit NATO as many feared.
Trumps presidency has caused an increase in racial tension among Americans, with white supremacists increasing their actions, public displays and rallies. This has been handled poorly by Trumps administration.
Despite this, the American GDP is up 3.2% on previous years and unemployment is lower than it has been in over a decade (it was 4.6% in January 2007, spiking at 9.9% and then lowering to 4.1% in December 2016).
Who knows what the next 18months of Trump’s Presidency will bring, but it’s sure to raise eyebrows. Keep an eye on this page of our website for up to date information on Trump’s presidency.
Trump: An American Dream
The Economist, video on YouTube
Trump in 2 Minutes
Page about Donald Trump [https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/donald-trump]
Donald Trump timeline of his candidacy [http://people.com/politics/donald-trump-timeline-to-presidential-nomination/]
Timeline of Trump’s Candidacy [https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/07/us-election-2016-complete-timeline-clinton-trump-president]
Donald Trump After Hours [http://time.com/donald-trump-after-hours/]