Skip to main content

Donald Trump: The Early Years

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Skarlet writes about famous (and infamous) people, business development, medicine, physical education, beauty, fashion, and crafts.

Young Donald Trump

Young Donald Trump in His Earliest Development Project

Young Donald Trump in His Earliest Development Project

Trump, Wharton School, and Real Estate

Donald Trump is well known today for his great wealth, celebrity status, and more recently, his run for president of the United States. Entrepreneurs admire him, and many despise him for his shameless flaunting of wealth and success, either way, one must acknowledge that Trump is an expert in getting what he wants through successful deal-making, marketing, and creative promoting. No matter how the cards in front of him stack up, Donald Trump always finds a way to the top.

Trump has stated, "Deal making is something you are born with. It's not about being brilliant, although it takes some intelligence, most people do not have the instincts, and if they do, will never recognize that they do, because they don't have the courage or the good fortune to discover their potential." To immigrants and people who love the American dream, Donald Trump has been the ultimate man to study because in socialist countries people think small. They see themselves as a "common man" and therefore accept mediocrity. The beauty of America is that one can will themselves to success. Those who do not accept defeat, see themselves as millionaires in the making; while working behind the counter at McDonald's and keeping their eye on the big prize, they rise above the dull, humdrum life of living in squalor paycheck to paycheck. They buy Donald Trump books, always beginning with, The Art of the Deal, the book Trump himself wrote long before his celebrity status and decades before he became POTUS.

By all accounts, Trump is un-afraid, and has channeled his energy from an early age into becoming the biggest and most successful person he can be. His goal seems to be to keep himself in the spotlight and maintain his notorious reputation as an aggressive, wealthy, and powerful figure while he continues to grow his wealth. Having notoriety has made it a lot easier for Trump to grow his wealth due to public interest. Love him or hate him, his name draws crowds.

In the Good old American tradition of thinking big, Trump says, "to me it's very simple: if you're going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big. Most people think small, because most people are afraid of success, afraid of making decisions, afraid of winning. And that gives people like me a great advantage."

This very basic formula is key to one's success. Many later books with different authors have ripped off Trump's lessons and sold pale imitations of Art of the Deal, with great success. But, to Trump fans they are only imitators.

With his parents at his graduation from military school

With his parents at his graduation from military school

Fred Trump

The most important influence on Donald Trump growing up was his father, Fred Trump. He learned a lot from him, including toughness, business, how to motivate people, and efficiency. Get it done, get it done right, and get out, that's the basic philosophy that Fred Trump taught young Donald Trump. Donald also realized early on that he did not want to be in the same type of business that his father was in. Fred Trump did very well building rent-controlled and rent-stabilized housing in Queens and Brooklyn, but it was a very tough way to make a buck. Donald wanted something more glamorous, and exciting. He also realized that if he ever wanted to be known as more than Fred Trump's son, he had to make his own mark, and that he did, in Manhattan.

Fred Trump was born in New Jersey in 1905. His father was a Swedish immigrant who owned a restaurant and drank heavily. He died when Fred was 11 years old and his mother had to start working as a seamstress to support her three children, while Fred immediately began taking odd jobs. Fred worked as a delivery boy, a shoe-shiner and as a "construction donkey" hauling lumbar.

Construction interested him very much, and he began taking night classes in carpentry, plan-reading, and estimating. By age 16, he built his first structure, a two-car frame garage for a neighbor. Middle-class people were just beginning to buy cars, and Fred Trump was soon able to establish a good new business building prefabricated garages for fifty dollars each.

He never considered college because he was responsible for supporting his family, so he began working as a carpenter's helper for a home-builder in Queens. Fred was a very focused and ambitious young man who decided shortly after his father's death that if he could develop skills, he would be able to support a family and get ahead.

Before he was of legal age, he built his first home and called his company Elizabeth Trump & Son. (Elizabeth was his mother) As soon as he sold his first house, he used the profit to build another, and he kept his business going from there, building bigger projects one after another in working-class communities around Queens. He continued to build over the years but began to aim at a more affluent market, building larger homes.

In 1929 when the depression suddenly hit, and Fred turned to other businesses. He bought a bankrupt mortgage-servicing company and later sold it at a profit. In 1934 Trump went back to building low-priced homes. Selling hundreds of homes throughout the 1930s.

Fred Trump married Mary MacLeod in 1936. Their first son, Freddy, was not of the same mold as either Fred Trump or his younger brother, Donald. He was a good looking, easy going guy who loved parties, much to the frustration of the disciplined Fred Trump Sr. Freddy never could become interested in business and eventually became a pilot for TWA. He died of alcoholism at age 43.

Their middle son, Donald, was drawn to business very early on, yet he never imitated his father. Young Donald was always assertive, being a neighborhood leader with his peers during high school. The youngest brother Robert was always close to Donald, but was in no way as confident and independent.

At 13 young Donald Trump went to military school. He attended New York Military Academy in upstate New York beginning in 8th grade, and stayed there until his senior year. It was there that he learned about discipline and the channeling of his aggression into achievement. He was appointed captain of the cadets, and after graduating Donald went to the Wharton School of Finance, where he earned his degree in economics.

Upon graduation, he worked for his father briefly to finally confirm what his thoughts had always been, that he was not interested in the way his father did Real Estate. Fred Trump built low income and middle-income buildings in Brooklyn and Queens, while Donald's ambitions gravitated to the best possible locations. All the years of thinking big had set his ambitions in another direction.

The Donald Trump Family

The Donald Trump Family

Scroll to Continue

The Art of the Deal

In college Trump spent his spare time reading FHA foreclosures, and he made his first deal.

He purchased Swifton Village, which was a 12,000-unit apartment development in Ohio. There were 800 vacant apartments, the developers had gone under, the government had foreclosed and the whole appearance of the deal was a disaster. Everything that could be wrong with the property was absolutely wrong. But from Donald's perspective that was great, because it gave him an opportunity.

Many times when dealing with a government agency on a foreclosure, they just want to get out of it as quickly as possible, and are not equipped to manage it. In this case, things had deteriorated so badly that no one else was even bidding. Trump snapped at it and turned a profit.

Nothing could stop Donald Trump. He bought pieces of property along the Hudson River and blocks close to Central Park. Trump loved making deals more than anything else, and every time he purchased a piece of real estate he was learning new things. It was the excitement, the thrill, and the huge outcome that attracted him. As some people are addicted to gambling, drinking, or some other vice, Donald is addicted to succeeding in bigger and better deals that require him to negotiate, and convince others that he is the top dog, that is part of the conquer that comes from making a "big deal". The guy on the other end of the deal could have chosen someone else but Donald won. That is what drives Donald Trump.

For example in 1973, he came across a story about Penn Central Railroad, which was in the middle of a massive bankruptcy filing. This story named Victor Palieri as selling off the assets of the railroad. Among the assets were acres of land.

Trump decided immediately that Victor was someone he wanted to know, and although he had not really done anything this big on his own before, he was determined to pump himself up in the eyes of Victor. Trump had no reputation to sell himself on, he had to sell Victor on energy and enthusiasm alone.

Victor decided to go with Trump who was 27 at the time, and had never built anything in Manhattan. Donald had to make Victor believe that he was big and powerful even though he did not even have a company name. He decided to call it Trump Organization.

By 1974 Donald was well on his way. He had secured options to purchase the two waterfront sites from Penn Central and his name was regularly featured in the New York Times. This was Trump's earliest notable deal, and Donald realized that his bravado was taking him a long way, and resulting in earning a lot more money.

Trump in Manhattan & Le Club

Trump always had his eye on Manhattan, and after moving there to focus on the property and lifestyle, he decided he wanted to join Le Club, which was the hottest club in the city and the most exclusive.

It was all part of the image. He wanted to look successful in order to be accepted as a top developer who was worth associating with. It was located on East 54th street, and its membership included some of the most successful men in the world. Trump asked if he could join and was turned down. He came up with a number of ideas, kept pushing, and eventually saw the president of the club socially.

When Trump was eventually accepted, he met men there that he would eventually do big business with. "Fake it til you make it" could be an accurate way of how Trump was thinking during this time.

Ivana Trump

Ivana was born in the Czech Republic, and from a very young age, her father encouraged her to improve her skiing talents. In 1972 Ivana was selected as an alternate on the 1972 Olympics. This allowed her several opportunities to travel outside the Communist Bloc. A year earlier, she married Austrian skier, Alfred Winklmayr, in order to obtain a foreign passport so that Communist leaders would leave her alone.

In the early 1970s she earned a master's degree in physical education, and In 1975 she left Czechoslovakia and moved to Canada to live near a ski resort. For two years she worked as a model in Canada, and In 1976 she divorced Winklmayr and moved to New York to promote the Olympics. It was in New York that she met Donald Trump.

On April 7, 1977, Ivana married Trump in a lavish society wedding. The Trumps became leading figures in New York high society life during the 1980s. They worked on several massive projects together, including the construction of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and Trump Tower.

They had three children: Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump.

Ivana Trump took a major role in the Trump Organization. She became the Vice President of Interior Design for the company, and is responsible for the design of Trump Tower. Later on, Donald appointed her to manage Trump Castle Hotel and Casino as the President.

In the late 1980s, Ivana decided to leave Atlantic City in order to devote more time to her family. However, Donald asked her to oversee the restoration of the landmark Plaza Hotel, and she took over as its President. She was truly the perfect match for Donald.

Rumors began to circulate that Donald was having an affair with a former beauty queen, Marla Maples. While the family was on holiday in Colorado Ivana encountered Maples on the ski slopes and their confrontation was reported in the New York Post the following day. In 1991, Ivana filed for divorce, seeking a great amount of the family fortune. Donald fought hard in court, protesting Ivana's claims that she had contributed to the Trump Organization.

The divorce battle fueled extensive pieces in the gossip columns. In October 1990 Ivana's 63-year-old father died suddenly from a heart attack. Donald and Ivana made amends at this time and stood together at the funeral.

Donald Trump & Marla Maples


The Hair May Be Bad, but It's all Publicity

The crazy, mid-life crisis event of Donald's affair with Maples, and the divorce from Ivana is considered to be a turning point in the way the public viewed Donald. Fred Trump had married a smart, sensible woman, and the two were a devoted couple. Donald Trump was raised with a levelheaded, happy marriage to learn from, and he did admire his parents.

As a young man, Donald was not interested in brainless bimbos, and in his first book, The Art of the Deal, he praises his wife Ivana for being a steady, level-headed rock that allows for success. But Trump's ultimate goal is not a happy marriage, but a lot of publicity and celebrity status. He had to make a choice and never look back. He knows that being married to a smart businesswoman will not keep his name in the news.

In the late 80's and early 90's the Cheryl Tiegs, natural cover girl look was popular, and Trump married Maples, who had the ultimate trophy look of the era. These days the line-free and very botoxed skin, breast-implanted, and extremely cosmetically-altered look is popular. The darker hair, painted face, and more exotic looks are what we see on the magazine covers, and what does Trump have? When that look is out of style, Trump will perhaps go in a different direction, but, probably not. Donald may seem brash and even shallow to the general public but he is in fact a very hard-working and serious man. He has said in so many words that the Marla Maples era of his life was something that he regrets. He became very distracted, began living his life in a carefree manner, unlike how he had when he was married to Ivana. It all caught up with him when his business was heavily leveraged and he found himself 900 million dollars in debt. A lesser man would have committed suicide. All the newspapers were printing stories gleefully of the fall of Donald Trump. At this time The Donald proved himself to be a super brilliant shrewd businessman. He kept his head down and worked manically for years until he not only was out of debt but his business was stronger than it had ever been, and he became not just a multi-millionaire but a billionaire. What can Trump do to top that?

In May of 2015, Donald Trump announced that he was running for president. The negative liberal press points to the Marla Maples era of the early 90's to site Trump as incompetent. Usually, the mainstream media is very adroit in brainwashing the masses, but this time there is a large enough percentage of people throwing out, "if making a few mistakes makes one stupid, then no one is fit to be president". As any successful businessman knows, failure is part of success. If one makes such a big deal of failure, one will paralyze themselves and think small. Eventually, Trump did become president, showing that you can always turn your situation around.

Whether you like him or not, Trump knows what he wants and he sets out to achieve it, no matter what.

Donald Trump & his latest prop

Donald Trump & his latest prop

© 2012 Skarlet


Jeff burk on April 15, 2017:

big age difference

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on March 17, 2017:

You have lots of information here, well told and quite interesting:). Great article.

Vladislav Andreev on July 25, 2016:

Thank you, very well written and detailed. I read with pleasure. Good luck and new creative discoveries.

Farawaytree on February 09, 2016:

Love this! Enjoyed the pictures too! May I ask, how did you copyright your name?

Skarlet (author) from California on January 22, 2016:

@ Besarien. Well, since he was not even thinking of running for President when they married, in fact he was backing big money democrats, I don't think she has her heart set on being first lady at all.

Besarien from South Florida on January 21, 2016:

I wonder how long Melania will stick it out if she doesn't get to be first lady?

Doodlehead from Northern California on July 25, 2012:

The new one's got a brain too. She's just young and no baggage....he'll change that for her.....

Doodlehead from Northern California on July 23, 2012:

Love stuff like this.

Skarlet (author) from California on July 23, 2012:

Thank you sis,

I agree. Ivana was the one who worked with him to build the empire, the others are signing contracts, and agreeing to stay for X number of years. Its phoney. But, Trump wants publicity and fame, period.

I think Marla would probably say it was worth it because of how much it boosted her career, and she can write books and do what she wants now. Plus, he was not this ugly when she had him.

The new one- I don't know.....

Angela Blair from Central Texas on July 22, 2012:

Most interesting and complex man -- wonder if the money's worth it to his trophy wives. Ivana was the real deal -- seems the rest are just following the $$$$. Interesting and well written Hub. Best/Sis

Related Articles