Frederick Hobart Mertz (portrayed by William Frawley) was born in Steubenville, Ohio on around 1888. Fred's birthday is never revealed, but he is getting ready to celebrate his birthday in episode #75, which originally aired on November 30, 1953. So, for convenience, his birthdate can be said to be either on November 30th or somewhere shortly thereafter, making Fred a Sagittarius. As for the year in which Fred was born, there are no clues, besides the fact that he was a good deal older than his wife, Ethel, and he had to have been at least 18 in 1918, since he was in the Army at that time. Using this bit of information, he could have been born no later than 1900, and was probably born sometime before that, maybe about the time of the actor who plays him, William Frawley, who was born in 1887. In one episode, Fred had an old boxing robe and shorts which revealed that he was once a Golden Gloves Boxing Champion in 1909, which may indicate that he was born at least before 1900, perhaps between 1885 and 1895.
Not much is known about his early childhood, other than that Fred came from an Irish family, and he lived on a farm somewhere in the Midwest as a child and learned how to care for farm animals. His mother is never shown or named, but she lives in Indiana and doesn't think much of Fred's wife, Ethel. His father is never mentioned. The farm Fred lived on as a child was probably in Ohio or Indiana, based on his place of birth and where his mother currently lives. Fred has at least one sibling. His brother went on a camping trip with Fred and Ricky one summer; the brother's name is unknown, as is Fred's birth order.
Fred went into show business as a vaudeville performer long before he ever got married. The date in which he started working in show biz isn't known, but he did play the violin at a rally for Teddy Roosevelt, and he seems to have been performing for a long time before 1918. He started out as half of the act Mertz and Kurtz, performing with partner Ted/Barney Kurtz. Fred and Ted/Barney were billed as "the laugh twins." Their motto was "laugh 'til it hurts with Mertz and Kurtz!" Fred once mentions tap dancing as part of his Mertz and Kurtz act, and they always closed their act with the song "I Want a Girl Just Like the One Who Married Dear Old Dad." Mertz and Kurtz also introduced the song "Oh, By Jingo" when they were once performing in Indianapolis. In 1918, Fred joined the Army as a doughboy in WWI and went over to France for three weeks. He traveled both to and from France by boat, and this was dreadful for Fred's severe case of seasickness. Fred was only stationed in France for three weeks, but he made it to the rank of corporal while in the Army. When back in America, the evolution of his show biz act is unclear, but we know that Fred did a police benefit in 1919 (and was rewarded with a pair of old Civil War handcuffs), did a Mertz and Kurtz Atlantic City bathing skit around 1924, and performed vaudeville for the last time in Peoria in 1925. Throughout his entire vaudeville career, Fred managed his act himself.
Sometime during his vaudeville career, Fred met Ethel Potter, his future wife. Mr. Potter didn't like Fred, so Ethel and Fred eloped against Mr. Potter's wishes when Ethel was 19. Ethel and Fred got married on May 3rd. The year is unknown, but several possible dates can be calculated using given information. Using Ethel's tentative birthyears, she would have been 19 between 1925 and 1935. The Mertzes celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary in 1951, which would mean they eloped in 1933. They celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 1952, which would give a wedding year of 1927. It is thought that Fred and Ethel were a couple for about a year before they eloped, as Fred once remarks that he has been buying Ethel birthday presents for 26 years. This, of course, is one year longer than their longstanding 25-year marriage period.
Fred and Ethel set out on having a rather successful vaudeville career together after their marriage. They performed all over the country. It appears that they performed under the name Mertz & Mertz; this was the name on their vaudeville trunk, which they bought from a man who had a seal act. One of their career highlights was starring in the Flapper Follies of 1927 at the Palace Theater in Jamestown, New York, an act which they reprised in 1952 at the Tropicana. They also did an apache dance together sometime during their act, and Ethel used to do some sort of an Egyptian dance. The Mertzes seemed to have lived a sort of vagabond life early in their marriage. They traveled a lot for vaudeville, and once, they somehow got stranded in Indianapolis. To survive, the couple worked at a diner, Fred as the waiter and Ethel as the cook. It is likely that they were in vaudeville together the first five years of their marriage, as Ethel once says (before her California trip) that she hadn't been out of New York for 20 out of the 25 years she had been married. The other five years most likely were spent traveling all around the country for her and Fred's act.
In 1937, the couple retired from show business and purchased a small brownstone apartment in Manhattan, located at 623 East 68th Street. (In 1953, Ethel says that they've been living in the apartment for 16 years.) The deed for the building was written in Ethel's name; they moved in to apartment 3C, which is right across the hall from the Ricardos' second apartment of 3D.. Fred and Ethel quickly grew accustomed to earning their living as landlords. When Lucy and Ricky Ricardo moved in to their building in 1948, Ethel and Fred quickly developed a very close friendship with these particular tenants of theirs. Fred and Ricky became best friends, bonding over their similar interests and similar marital strife. Not bearing to be apart from their best friends, Fred and Ethel went with the Ricardos on their 1955 trip to Hollywood. When Ricky had to tour Europe with his band a month after returning from Hollywood in 1955, he hurriedly asked Fred to be his business manager during the trip, knowing how Fred had managed his vaudeville act all by himself. Fred was responsible for learning German for the trip. He made sure to learn how to ask for nine different types of beer first, since that was the most important to him. Fred continued to be Ricky's band manager long after the trip to Europe, which meant that he was able to see even more exotic places for free that he otherwise never would have paid to see, such as Las Vegas, Mexico and Tokyo, Japan.
The Mertzes never had any children for an unknown reason. It may have been that they were infertile or just from the lack of regular passion in their sex life and relationship. But through the Ricardos, they got to experience the joys of parenthood. When Lucy Ricardo became pregnant in 1952, she immediately declared that the Mertzes would be the baby's godparents. Fred's godson, Ricky Ricardo, Jr. (AKA: "Little Ricky"), was born on January 1953. Little Ricky calls his godfather "Uncle Fred," and he also named his puppy "Fred" after his godfather, showing a much closer relationship than merely being godparent/godchild.
In 1957, when the Ricardos moved to Westport, Connecticut, Fred was almost as devastated by the loss of his best friends as Ethel was. When the chance came for the Mertzes to apply for the job of hired hand in the Ricardos' chicken/egg business, they did so in a heartbeat and moved to Westport, too. This is their current living location. The Mertzes live in the Ricardos' guest house, and they get free room and board for taking care of the chickens, as well as a portion of the profits from the egg sales (60 cents a dozen). Once the Ricardos' landlords, the Mertzes now are the Ricardos' tenants.
Fred lives a fairly healthy life, even though he has had gout and has broken his leg. Fred has a complex relationship with his wife. He and his "honeybunch" Ethel love each other, but they constantly bicker and insult each other. Fred often makes cracks about Ethel being ugly or overweight, and he's never afraid to flirt with a pretty girl, even if it's right under Ethel's nose. But sometimes, his love for Ethel shows through, and one can see how much he cares for his "honeybunch." After singing and dancing, Fred's favorite activity is anything dealing with sports. He loves watching "the fights" on TV with buddy Ricky Ricardo, but his real passion is for baseball and the New York Yankees. Fred is a huge Yankees fan, going to many games and being in awe of Joe DiMaggio. Like his wife, Fred loves playing cards, and the Mertzes often play a weekly bridge game with the Ricardos. Fred is a proud member of his lodge. He once was flagbearer for the lodge, and his dream is to someday be Sergeant of Arms.
Like the rest, Fred has his personality flaws. Fred's biggest flaw is that he is incredibly cheap. He hates having to ever spend money, and he often causes trouble or arguments by not being willing to shell out money. It is unknown whether Fred has been a cheapskate his whole life or not. There is evidence, though, that he may have developed his tightwad ways in adulthood. When Fred finds out the money Lucy won at the Monte Carlo casino didn't belong to Ethel like he thought, he laments that he now has been "wiped out twice in one lifetime," the first time being the Stock Market Crash of '29. Perhaps losing his life's savings in the Great Depression changed Fred's outlook on money and made him a hardened penny-pincher. At the very least, Fred no doubt became even cheaper after the Depression. Ethel also remarks in 1956 that Fred hasn't bought gifts for his friends in 20 years, so he must have been more generous in the past. Being so cheap, he neglects Ethel in the area of buying her things. Ethel is almost never allowed to buy new clothes or new appliances, and Fred's perfectly okay with Ethel having to use Lucy's free hand-me-downs. Also, Fred has a bad habit of jingling his keys in his pocket, and he can be very gruff and crabby. But when it comes to the meaningful relationships in his life, the people who he loves always win over money or grouchiness.