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It seems as if Paris and Nicky Hilton get as much publicity as the entire Hilton Hotel chain, the giant hospitality company with 485,000 rooms and 2,800 hotels. They all owe their existence to Conrad N. Hilton, a man who achieved success with the same panache, daring and abandon that his great-granddaughters employ in revealing their habitus.
Although Hilton lived for nearly 30 years in Casa Encantada, a 61-room mansion set on nine acres in Bel Air, a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles, the governor of Texas called him a Texan. After all, Hilton was born in San Antonio in 1887 and started his hotel career in Texas. However, the San Antonio of Hilton's birth was in the Territory of New Mexico, not in Texas
Hilton's father Augustus, was a Norwegian immigrant who married Mary Laufersweiler a religious second-generation German-American. "Gus" owned a mercantile store, ran a boarding house, and later acquired coal mines in New Mexico.
Hilton's upbringing was reasonably strict: he had to put in a day's work with his father before he could go out and play. After attending a grammar school, Gus sent Hilton to the Goss Military Academy and a year later to the New Mexico Military Institute.
When Hilton was 16 his father sold the coal mines for $100,000, making the family one of the richest in the territory. He kept the store. A year later, after a visit to the World Exhibition in St. Louis, the Hiltons moved to Long Beach, CA where Hilton attended high school.
Unfortunately, the Panic of 1907 wracked the family fortune and ended Hilton's dream of attending Dartmouth. The Hiltons returned to New Mexico; they still owned the store in San Antonio. The room above the store served as a "hotel" and Hilton carried luggage, made wake-up calls and performed other bellhop chores. He didn't find it particularly interesting.
By the time he was 18, Hilton had been a clerk, a roving trader, a minor speculator, and a bellboy. He also farmed and sold the produce, and played the piano at weddings.
Instead of Dartmouth, Hilton entered the New Mexico School of Mines at Socorro. He wasn't interested in mining . . . . "but I was as determined now at twenty to study something as I had been determined at sixteen to study nothing at all." Hilton attributed his subsequent ability to formulate and analyze complex financial transactions to his studies of mathematics at the School of Mines.
Hilton's father offered him the manager's post at the San Antonio store, but father and son did not mesh too well in business. Hilton felt his leash was too tight. After a brief stint with his father, Hilton turned to politics, running as a Republican for the first New Mexico House of Representatives-New Mexico had just been admitted to the Union.