Popular and decorated as a naval war commander in Austria, Captain Georg von Trapp married Agathe Whitehead in 1910. Both came from privileged families, so their lifestyle was opulent and comfortable even after the Captain lost his naval position following World War I. Since Austria no longer had a coast, von Trapp found that he no longer had a job. To make matters worse, he then lost his beloved wife. He was disconsolate and lost without both the mainstays of his life.
Maria was actually removed from the convent due to her own failing health rather than her difficulty in adapting to convent life. The doctor thought fresh air and exercise would help, so the decision was made to send her to the von Trapp home to be governess to one ill von Trapp daughter. Never to return to the convent, she married the Captain on November 26, 1927.
The real von Trapp children had different names than those used in the stage or film versions. They were; Maria, Rupert, Agathe, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina. (Rosmarie, Eleonore and Johannes were later children of Maria and Georg.) The death of their mother meant the seven children needed a governess. Many were hired but none stayed very long…until Maria.
Also unlike the stage version of the story, the von Trapp house had always been full of music. The children always sang and were very musical, often accompanied by their father on guitar. Maria helped polish their singing and introduced new types of music, and the Captain's high naval and social reputation provided them with a well known name.
Captain von Trapp lost his fortune through bank failure long before he fled Austria. The family was forced to do their own chores, and eventually they had to sing for money, which didn't sit very well with Georg von Trapp. He thought work, and especially singing for money, was beneath his station in life. The Anschluss, or invasion of Austria by the Nazis, meant yet another change for the family. In a family discussion, it was decided that they should leave their country rather than bend to the Nazi regime. They arrived in America in 1938 with nine children…and one on the way.
For the next eighteen years, the entire family was constantly on the road with their traveling family singing act. Maria demanded total loyalty of the children, and after their father died in 1947 they began to rebel at her unwillingness to let them live their own lives.
In 1942 they bought property in Stowe, Vermont, where they ran a farm and converted it to an Austrian style home. By 1950 they had begun renting the home out to skiers while they were touring. They stopped touring in 1956. Although the original structure burned in 1980, the home was rebuilt and is now a vacation lodge retreat known as the von Trapp Family Lodge, Inc.