Conrad Hilton

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Conrad Nicholson Hilton (December 25, 1887 – January 3, 1979) was an American hotelier and founder of the Hilton Hotels chain.


Early life

Hilton was born in San Antonio, New Mexico. His father, Augustus Halvorsen "Gus" Hilton, was an immigrant from Norway, and his devout Catholic mother, Mary Genevieve (née Laufersweiler), was an American of German descent. Hilton grew up with seven siblings: Felice A. Hilton, Eva C. Hilton, Carl H. Hilton, Julian Hilton, Rosemary J. Hilton, August H. Hilton, and Helen A. Hilton.

Hilton attended the New Mexico Military Institute, at St. Michael's College (now the College of Santa Fe), and the New Mexico School of Mines (now New Mexico Tech). He was a member of the international fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon. In his early twenties, Hilton was a Republican representative in the first legislature of the newly formed State of New Mexico.[clarification needed] He served two years in the U.S. Army during World War I. While he was in the army, his father was killed in a car accident.[citation needed]

The most enduring influence to shape Hilton's philanthropic philosophy beyond that of his parents was the Roman Catholic Church and its sisters. He credited his mother with guiding him to prayer and the church whenever he was troubled or dismayed — from a boyhood loss of a beloved pony to severe financial losses during the Great Depression. His mother continually reminded him that prayer was the best investment he would ever make.[1][dead link]


As a young boy, Hilton developed entrepreneurial skills working at his father's general store in Socorro County, New Mexico. His first hotel purchase was the 40-room Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas, in 1919,[2] an investment decision made after his plan to invest in a bank in the oil-boom town fell through; the hotel did such brisk business that rooms changed hands as much as three times a day.[3] He went on to buy hotels throughout Texas. The first high rise hotel he built was the Dallas Hilton, which opened in 1925. This was followed by the Abilene Hilton in 1927, Waco Hilton in 1928, and El Paso Hilton in 1930. He built his first hotel outside of Texas in 1939 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is today known as the Andaluz Hotel. During the Great Depression Hilton was nearly forced into bankruptcy and lost several of his hotels. He was retained as manager, however, and eventually bought them back. He formed the Hilton Hotels Corporation in 1946 followed by Hilton International Company in 1948.

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