The Past in Colorfeatures the work of colorist Marina Amaral, bringing to life black and white photos with color applied digitally.

The German barber, restaurant-owner and property speculator Friedrich Trump and his young wife Elisabeth did not intend to spend their married life in the United States. Both had been born in the small town of Kallstadt, in the Pfalz (or Palatinate) region in southwestern Germany, not far from the French border.

As a young man in the 1880s Friedrich had left Europe to seek his fortune in America during the Gold Rush, heading to Washington State and the Yukon to open hotel-restaurants catering to gold-diggers. After marrying Elisabeth in 1901 the couple moved to New York. But by 1904 she had grown homesick and they returned to make a living in their homeland.

Yet their homeland rejected them, because Friedrich Trump had broken the law. By going to the U.S. he had skipped Germany’s compulsory military service. As punishment his German citizenship was revoked. Trump groveled and begged to the authorities, writing to a local prince to ask “Why should we be deported? This is very, very hard for a family.”

But it did no good. Cast out from the land of their birth, on June 30th 1905 the Trumps followed so many others of the world’s poor, huddled masses, yearning to be free, and traveled once again to the United States.

Friedrich and Elisabeth Trump. (Credit: Public Domain)
Friedrich and Elisabeth Trump. (Credit: Public Domain)

The photograph
This photograph appears to show Friedrich and Elisabeth at an early point in their marriage. It is sometimes dated to 1918, the year of Friedrich’s death. But since the couple appear without any of their three children it is more likely to have been taken between late 1902 and 1904, when they were living in New York for the first time. Reconstructing the colors in the photograph required both historical research and technical analysis of the data within the black-and-white original.

We can tell even in grayscale that Friedrich’s eyes were bright; color images of his descendants—including the current President of the United States, Donald J. Trump—suggest with near-100-percent certainty that Friedrich had a distinctively Germanic combination of pale blue-grey eyes and sandy-blond hair.

Life in America
A U.S. immigration official who encountered Friedrich Trump in the late 19th century recorded his surname as ‘Trumpf.’ It is possible that the official misheard Trump’s German accent and added the final ‘f’ in error. Certainly the consonant was little heard of again.

Friedrich avoided trouble during the First World War, Americanizing his name to Frederick as anti-German sentiment in New York ran high. But in 1918 he died aged just 49: a victim of the influenza pandemic that swept the United States that year. Elisabeth, however, lived until the age of 86. She took a keen interest in real estate and founded a property company called Elizabeth Trump & Son (her name also now subtly Americanized). She ran this business with her eldest son Fred C. Trump until her death in 1966.

The descendant
In 1971 the real estate company was handed over to Fred’s second son Donald J. Trump, who renamed it, then parlayed his grandmother and father’s real estate millions into further property ownership and a career as a TV personality.

On January 20th 2017, nearly a century after his grandfather’s death, Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as 45th President of the United States. A close-run presidential election had turned in part on Trump’s vigorous nationalist rhetoric, in which he blamed many of the United States’ problems on immigrants.