Conrad Hilton

Last updated
Conrad Hilton
Conrad Hilton (croped).jpg
Hilton in 1962
Conrad Nicholson Hilton

(1887-12-25)December 25, 1887
DiedJanuary 3, 1979(1979-01-03) (aged 91)
Resting placeCalvary Hill Cemetery, Dallas, Texas
Known for Hilton Hotels & Resorts
  • Mary Adelaide Barron
    (m. 1925;div. 1934)
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor
    (m. 1942;div. 1946)
  • Mary Frances Kelly
    (m. 1976)

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


Early life

Conrad Hilton was born in San Antonio, New Mexico. His father, Augustus Halvorsen Hilton (1854–1919), was an immigrant from Norway, and his Catholic mother, Mary Genevieve (née Laufersweiler) (1863–1956), was an American of German descent from Iowa. [1] Hilton had seven siblings: Felice A. Hilton, Eva C. Hilton, Carl H. Hilton, Julian Hilton (died in infancy), Rosemary J. Hilton, August H. Hilton and Helen A. Hilton. The Hilton name comes from the farm Hilton in Kløfta, Norway, where Conrad's father was born.

San Antonio, New Mexico community in New Mexico, USA

San Antonio is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Socorro County, New Mexico, United States, roughly in the center of the state, on the Rio Grande. The entire population of the county is around 18,000.

Norway constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe whose territory comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; the remote island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard are also part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.

Germans citizens or native-born people of Germany; or people of descent to the ethnic and ethnolinguistic group associated with the German language

Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe, who share a common German ancestry, culture and history. German is the shared mother tongue of a substantial majority of ethnic Germans.

Hilton attended the Goss Military Academy (since renamed as the New Mexico Military Institute) and St. Michael's College (now Santa Fe University of Art and Design), and the New Mexico School of Mines (now New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM). He was a member of the international fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon – Alpha Omicron Chapter. In his early twenties, Hilton was a Republican representative in the first New Mexico Legislature, when the state was newly formed. He served two years in the U.S. Army during World War I. His father was killed in a car accident while he was serving in the Army in France. [2]

New Mexico Military Institute

New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) is a public military junior college in Roswell, New Mexico. Founded in 1891, NMMI operates under the auspices of the State of New Mexico, under a dedicated Board of Regents that reports to the Governor of New Mexico. A land-grant institution located in the city center of Roswell, New Mexico, NMMI enrolls nearly 1,000 cadets at the junior college and high school levels each year. NMMI is the only state-supported military college located in the western United States and has many notable alumni that have served at senior levels in the military and private sector.

Santa Fe University of Art and Design

Santa Fe University of Art and Design (SFUAD) was a for-profit, accredited four-year university located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, US. The university was built from the College of Santa Fe, a Catholic facility founded as St. Michael's College in 1859, and renamed The College of Santa Fe in 1966. After financial difficulties in 2009, the campus was purchased by the City of Santa Fe, the State of New Mexico, and Laureate Education, and reopened with a narrowed focus on the film, theater, and other arts. As the Santa Fe University of Art and Design it became a secular college of 950 students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the graduation rate was 22% in 2017. The university closed in May 2018.

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology university

The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology is a public university in Socorro, New Mexico.

The most enduring influence to shape Hilton's philanthropic philosophy beyond that of his parents was the Roman Catholic Church and his sisters. He credited his mother with guiding him to prayer and the church whenever he was troubled or dismayed—from the boyhood loss of a beloved pony to severe financial losses during the Great Depression. His mother continually told him that prayer was the best investment he would ever make. [2]

Great Depression 20th-century worldwide economic depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late-1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.


As a young boy, Hilton developed entrepreneurial skills working at his father's general store in Socorro County, New Mexico, which was partially converted into a 10-room hotel. [3] [4] This was followed by varied experiences, including a stint as a representative in New Mexico's first State Legislature and a career decision to become a banker.

It was with the intention of buying a bank that he arrived in Texas at the height of the oil boom. He bought his first hotel instead, the 40-room Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas, in 1919, [3] when a bank purchase fell through. The hotel did such brisk business that rooms changed hands as often as three times a day, and the dining room was converted into additional rooms to meet the demand. [2] [5]

Cisco, Texas City in Texas, United States

Cisco is a city in Eastland County, Texas, United States. The population was 3,899 at the 2010 census.

He went on to buy and build hotels throughout Texas, including the highrise Dallas Hilton, opened in 1925; 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, today known as the Hotel Andaluz. During the Great Depression, Hilton was nearly forced into bankruptcy and lost several of his hotels. Nevertheless, he was retained as manager of a combined chain, and eventually regained control of his remaining eight hotels.

Over the next decade, he expanded west to California and east to Chicago and New York, crowning his expansions with such acquisitions as the Stevens Hotel in Chicago (then the world's largest hotel, it was renamed the Conrad Hilton), and the fabled Waldorf-Astoria in New York. He formed the Hilton Hotels Corporation in 1946, and Hilton International Company in 1948.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Hilton Hotels' worldwide expansion facilitated both American tourism and overseas business by American corporations. It was the world's first international hotel chain, at the same time establishing a certain worldwide standard for hotel accommodations. In all, Hilton eventually owned 188 hotels in 38 cities in the U.S., including the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, the Palmer House in Chicago, and the Plaza Hotel and Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, along with fifty-four hotels abroad. He later purchased the Carte Blanche Credit Company and an interest in the American Crystal Sugar Company, as well as other enterprises.

Hilton received honorary degrees from the University of Detroit (1953), DePaul University (1954), Barat College (1955), Adelphi College (1957), Sophia University, Tokyo (1963), and the University of Albuquerque (1975). Hilton's autobiography, Be My Guest, [6] was published in 1958 by Prentice Hall. In 1966, Hilton was succeeded as president by his son Barron and was elected chairman of the board.

Personal life

In 1925, Hilton married Mary Adelaide Barron (1906–1966). They had three children: Conrad Nicholson "Nicky" Hilton Jr., William Barron Hilton, and Eric Michael Hilton, before divorcing in 1934.

In 1941, Hilton married actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. They had one child: Constance Francesca Hilton, before divorcing in 1947. Gabor wrote in her 1991 autobiography One Lifetime is Not Enough that she only became pregnant by Hilton after he raped her during their marriage. [7] Their daughter Constance died on January 5, 2015, at age 67, from a stroke.

In 1976, Hilton married Mary Frances Kelly. Their marriage lasted until his death in 1979. Mary Hilton died in 2006, at the age of 90.

Hilton family fortune

On January 3, 1979, Hilton died of natural causes at the age of 91. He is interred at Calvary Hill Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery in Dallas, Texas. [8] He left $500,000 to his two surviving siblings, $100,000 to his daughter Francesca, and $10,000 to each of his nieces and nephews. The bulk of his estate was left to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, [9] which he established in 1944. His son, Barron Hilton, who spent much of his career helping build the Hilton Hotels Corporation, contested the will, despite being left the company as acting President, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board of Directors. A settlement was reached and, as a result, Barron Hilton received 4 million shares of the hotel enterprise, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation received 3.5 million shares, and the remaining 6 million shares were placed in the W. Barron Hilton Charitable Remainder Unitrust. [9] Upon Barron Hilton's death, Unitrust assets will be transferred to the Hilton Foundation,[ citation needed ] of which Barron sits on the Board of Directors as Chairman. [10]

On December 25, 2007, Barron Hilton announced that he would leave about 97% of his fortune (estimated at $2.36 billion), [10] to a charitable unitrust which would eventually be merged with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. [11] By leaving his estate to the Foundation, Barron not only donated the fortune he had amassed on his own, but also returned to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation the Hilton family fortune amassed by his father, which otherwise would have gone to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation 30 years prior, had Barron not contested his father's will. [12]


Hilton bust displayed at The Mobley, his first hotel in Cisco, Texas Conrad Hilton bust, Cisco, TX IMG 6407.JPG
Hilton bust displayed at The Mobley, his first hotel in Cisco, Texas


Related Research Articles

Hilton Worldwide American multinational hospitality company

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., formerly Hilton Hotels Corporation, is an American multinational hospitality company that manages and franchises a broad portfolio of hotels and resorts. Founded by Conrad Hilton in 1919, the corporation is now led by Christopher J. Nassetta.

Zsa Zsa Gabor Hungarian-American socialite and actress

Zsa Zsa Gabor was a Hungarian-American actress and socialite. Her sisters were actresses Eva and Magda Gabor.

Waldorf Astoria New York hotel in New York, United States

The Waldorf Astoria New York is a luxury hotel in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The hotel has been housed in two historic landmark buildings in New York. The first, bearing the same name, was built in two stages, as the Waldorf Hotel and the Astoria Hotel, which accounts for its dual name. That original site was situated on Astor family properties along Fifth Avenue, opened in 1893, and designed by Henry J. Hardenbergh. It was demolished in 1929 to make way for the construction of the Empire State Building. The present building, at 301 Park Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets in Midtown Manhattan, is a 47-story 190.5 m (625 ft) Art Deco landmark designed by architects Schultze and Weaver, which was completed in 1931. The current hotel was the world's tallest hotel from 1931 until 1963, when it was surpassed by Moscow's Hotel Ukraina by 7 metres (23 ft). An icon of glamour and luxury, the current Waldorf Astoria is one of the world's most prestigious and best known hotels. Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts is a division of Hilton Hotels, and a portfolio of high-end properties around the world now operate under the name, including in New York City.

Conrad Hilton Jr. American hotelier

Conrad Nicholson "Nicky" Hilton Jr. was an American socialite, hotel heir, and businessman. He was one of the sons of Conrad Hilton.

The Gabor sisters were three famous Hungarian-American actresses/socialites: Magda, Zsa Zsa, and Eva.

George Boldt American hotelier

George Charles Boldt Sr. was a Prussian-born American hotelier. A self-made millionaire, he influenced the development of the urban hotel as a civic social center and luxury destination.

Barron Hilton American hotelier

William Barron Hilton is an American business magnate, socialite, and hotel heir. The son and successor of hotelier Conrad Hilton, he is the retired chairman, president and chief executive officer of Hilton Hotels Corporation and chairman emeritus of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Hilton was also a founding partner of the American Football League and the original owner of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation foundation and prize awarded by it

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is an American non-profit charitable foundation, established in 1944 by hotel entrepreneur Conrad N. Hilton. It remained relatively small until his death on January 3, 1979 when it was named the principal beneficiary of his estate. In 2007, Conrad's son, Barron Hilton announced that he would leave about 97% of his fortune, to a charitable remainder unitrust which will eventually be merged with the Foundation, of which he is currently a member of the board of directors.

Constance Francesca Gabor Hilton was an American actress, photographer, and comedian. She was the only daughter of Hilton Hotel founder Conrad Hilton with his second wife, actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Conrad Hotels & Resorts is an international brand of luxury hotels and resorts owned and operated by Hilton Worldwide. Conrad was considered the luxury flagship brand in the Hilton Family of Brands, named after company founder Conrad Hilton, until being supplanted by The Waldorf-Astoria Collection in 2006.

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts Hotel chain

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, formerly The Waldorf-Astoria Collection, is a Hilton Worldwide luxury hotel and resort brand. It is positioned as the flagship brand within Hilton's portfolio, being used on hotels which offer the highest standards of facilities and service.

Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt German-American socialite

Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt is a German-American entrepreneur best known as the last husband and widower of Zsa Zsa Gabor. He took on his new name at age 36 in 1980, after Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt, then in her 80s, adopted him as an adult.

The Hilton family is an American family. The family members hold varying degrees of wealth and status as socialites in the United States of America. They are widely known for the Hilton Hotels & Resorts Group which was established by Conrad Hilton in 1919 when he bought his first hotel.

Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management

The Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management is one of 13 academic colleges at the University of Houston. The college offers two degree programs: a Bachelor of Science in Hotel & Restaurant Management and a Master of Science in Hospitality Management.

The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California that hosts awards shows, charity benefits, and entertainment and motion picture industry events

The Beverly Hilton is a hotel located on an 8.9-acre (3.6 ha) property at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards in Beverly Hills, California. The Beverly Hilton has hosted many awards shows, charity benefits, and entertainment and motion picture industry events, and is particularly known as the venue of the annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony.

Jørgine Slettede Boomer was a Norwegian-American businesswoman and entrepreneur, noted for her rags-to-riches story as a poor immigrant who became the co-owner and manager of one of the world's largest luxury hotels, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus hotel in Istanbul, Turkey

The Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus is a five star hotel in Istanbul, Turkey. It is located at Cumhuriyet Cad. in Elmadağ, Şişli, in walking distance from Taksim Square. Opened in 1955 as the Istanbul Hilton, the hotel has been a part of the Hilton Hotels family ever since.

Eric Michael Hilton was an American heir, hotelier, and philanthropist.

Steven M. Hilton

Steven Michael Hilton is an American philanthropist. He is the son of hotel magnate Barron Hilton, and grandson of Conrad Hilton who founded the Hilton Hotels chain. Steven Hilton is the chairman of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, a humanitarian charity working to improve the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people throughout the world. He served as president and CEO of the foundation prior to his retirement in 2015, since which he has remained chairman. During his tenure, annual grants have grown from a total of $6 million to $100 million a year, providing more than $1.4 billion to nonprofit organizations.

Majestic Las Vegas is a cancelled high-rise condominium project that was to be built on property previously occupied by the La Concha Motel on the Las Vegas Strip, in Winchester, Nevada. The project was announced by Majestic Resorts in February 2004, and was to be accompanied by Hilton's Conrad Las Vegas, a Conrad-branded hotel that would operate in a separate high-rise building on the same property. The project was initially expected to open in February 2006.


  1. "Conrad Hilton". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  2. 1 2 3 "Be My Guest" by Conrad Hilton, copyright 1958 by the Prentice Hall Press
  3. 1 2 The Handbook of Texas Online (Texas State Historical Association).
  4. The never-ending quest to build a hotel in space.
  5. Associated Press. "Modest Inn at Cisco Began Hotel String of Conrad Hilton," Big Spring Daily Herald, November 21, 1963, p. 12-A.
  6. Be My Guest, Autobiography of Conrad Hilton Archived March 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine .
  7. Review of Zsa Zsa Gabor's autobiography.
  8. Conrad Nicholson Hilton at Find a Grave
  9. 1 2 "Hilton, William – Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Hilton, William" (Encyclopedia). Net Industries. Retrieved April 2, 2011.
  10. 1 2 "Barron Hilton to Donate 97% of Estate to Hilton Foundation". Planned Giving Design Center, LLC. December 26, 2007. Retrieved April 2, 2011.
  11. "Hilton fortune to go to charity". BBC News. 2007-12-27. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
  12. The Philanthropy Hall of Fame, Conrad Hilton


Conrad N.Hilton: (Be My Guest)