Conrad Hilton

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

He was born Conrad Nicholson Hilton in San Antonio, New Mexico Territory, the son of Augustus Halvorson "Gus" Hilton (August 21, 1854-January 19, 1919) and Mary Genevieve Laufersweiler (December 3, 1861-August 26, 1947). They married February 12, 1885 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Conrad's siblings were Felice A. Hilton (December 6, 1885-February 12, 1968); Eva C. Hilton (December 29, 1889-1979); Carl H. Hilton (born January 1892); Julia Hilton (1895-1897); Rosemary J. Hilton (born July 1898); August H. "Boy" Hilton (born 1901); and Helen L. Hilton (born 1906).

His father, Gus, who was the son of Halvor Nilsen Hilton and Karoline Hansdatter "Kari" Holum, was born on the Hilton family farm near Kløfta in the municipality of Ullensaker, Norway, where relatives still live, emigrated to the United States in 1870. Conrad's mother was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, the daughter of a German-born merchant, Conrad Laufersweiler.

Conrad Hilton was educated at St. Michael's College (now the College of Santa Fe), and at the New Mexico School of Mines (now New Mexico Tech). In his early twenties, he was a representative in the first state legislature of the newly-formed State of New Mexico.

He entered the hotel business by buying the Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas, in 1919. The first hotel he had built was the Dallas Hilton, which opened on August 2, 1925. He formed the Hilton Hotel Corporation in 1946. The company expanded into credit cards, car rentals, and other travel services.

Hilton had three wives, Mary Adelaide Barron (married 1925-divorced 1934), actress Zsa Zsa Gabor (married 1942-divorced 1947) and Mary Frances (married 1976).

He and Barron had three sons, Conrad Nicholson Hilton, Jr.(1926-1969); William Barron Hilton (born 1927); and Eric Michael Hilton (born 1932). He and Gabor had one daughter, Constance Francesca Hilton (born 1947), who is the only child born to any of the three Gabor sisters.

Hilton's autobiography, Be My Guest, was published in 1957 by Prentice Hall.

He was a very successful businessman and an example of the prototypical American business tycoon. He ranks along with Henry Ford (mass production; automobiles), J. P. Morgan (finance), John D. Rockefeller (petroleum), Eleuthère Irénée du Pont (armament and chemicals), Walt Disney (entertainment), Howard Hughes (airplanes), Leland Stanford (railroads), Andrew Carnegie (steel), and Washington Duke (tobacco).

Conrad Hilton died in Santa Monica, California at the age of ninety-one. He is interred at Calvary Hills Cemetery, Dallas, Texas.

His estate founded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. He left nothing to his children or other descendants, but his son, Barron Hilton, contested the will and won in 1988. The net worth of Barron, and his descendants, then jumped to over $335,000,000.

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