created the Hilton Hotel chain of hotels.
Beginning with his first hotel in 1919,
Hilton grew his enterprise to a nationwide
chain of hotels catering to business travelers.
By 2000 there was more than 500 Hilton
Hilton was born on December 25, 1887 in
San Antonio in the New Mexico Territory
as the second child to Mary Genevieve
Lufersweiler and Augustus "Gus"
Halvorson Hilton. Hilton's mother, Mary,
was the daughter of a German immigrant
and was born in Iowa. His father Gus was
a native Norwegian who came to the US
in 1870 and married Mary in 1885.
his childhood, Hilton attended the Goss
Military Institute, the New Mexico Military
Institute, and St. Michael's College.
When not attending classes, Hilton helped
with the family businesses that included
a general store, post office, bank, and
a small hotel. In a household of eight
children, there was plenty to keep young
Hilton occupied outside the confines of
Hilton turned 21 he took charge of his
father's store but quickly became frustrated
with the monotony of the business. In
search of a new career, Hilton turned
to politics and was elected to the New
Mexico state legislature in 1912 when
the territory became an official US state.
He served two terms before leaving the
leaving the legislature Conrad Hilton
decided to go into banking, a field he'd
become familiar with via his father. He
raised money to start a bank and, although
the bank served him well, Hilton decided
to sell it in order to enlist in the army
when World War I began. He served in France
with the Quartermaster Corps and was discharged
in 1919 following the death of his father
back home. He returned to San Antonio
to take over his father's businesses,
only to find them failing. Hilton was
31 at the time and restless. At the advice
of a friend, he left New Mexico in search
of his fortune in Texas.
oil boom was in full swing in Texas and
Hilton hoped to make money through opening
a bank. His attempts at purchasing one
in Cisco failed and Hilton took refuge
in a nearby hotel. It was at the Mobley
Hotel that Hilton saw fortune and potential.
He raised enough money in the next few
days to buy the hotel and began renovating
it almost immediately.
saw where management was failing and focused
on making the hotel more efficient. In
a short time Hilton replaced the restaurant
and ballroom with additional guest rooms
and replaced part of the lobby with a
newsstand. In his efforts in increase
hotel traffic and customer satisfaction,
Conrad Hilton held the staff responsible
for each guest's happiness and comfort,
empowering them to provide even greater
service to the travelers.
a year Conrad Hilton had earned back his
investment. With his new profits he purchased
the Melba Hotel in Ft. Worth, Texas and
the Waldorf in Dallas. In 1925 Hilton
leased land in Dallas and built his first
hotel from the ground up. It cost him
$1 million. From then on, Hilton set a
goal of building one hotel every year.
married Mary Barron the same year he built
his first hotel. They had three sons together
but the Great Depression brought both
personal and financial problems. Hilton
was forced to sell many of his properties
and fell into debt. Trouble hit his marriage,
too, and Hilton and Barron divorced in
years after his divorce, Hilton had recovered
from his financial losses and purchased
his first hotel outside of Texas. The
owners of the Sir Francis Drake in San
Francisco were still trying to recover
their own losses and sold the $4 million
hotel to Hilton for only $275,000. Hilton
continued to purchase hotels on the West
Coast and eventually built and purchased
hotels in major cities around the country.
He moved his headquarters to Las Angeles
and moved to Bel Air.
a short time Hilton married the actress
Zsa Zsa Gabor, with whom he had one daughter.
They separated two years later in 1944
and finalized the divorce in 1946. That
same year Hilton created the Hilton Hotels
Corporation and one year later it became
the first hotel company to be listed on
the New York Stock Exchange.
1949 Hilton was able to realize one of
his long-time goals when he leased the
Waldof-Astoria in New York City. At the
time it was considered the best hotel
in the world. In 1954 he purchased the
Statler chain of hotels and converted
them to Hilton hotels. By this time he
had a total of 28 hotels nationwide.
first overseas hotel was created in Madrid
in 1948, after which he created the Hilton
Hotels International company. He continued
to grow both his domestic chain as well
as his international line of hotels, eventually
owning 185 domestic US hotels and 75 international
hotels by 1979 when he finally passed
away of pneumonia at the age of 91. He
had already passed the company onto his
son, Barron, in 1966.
Hilton left much of his wealth to his
philanthropic organization, the Conrad
N. Hilton Foundation and to the Conrad
N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant
Management at the University of Houston.
Hilton chain of hotels continued to grow
and by 2000 owned over 500 hotels worldwide.
Conrad Hilton biography may not
be reproduced online.
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