He was born in San Antonio on 25 December 1887 as a son of a local businessman, but he became rich and famous as an hotelier. His father Augustus Halvorsen came from Norway and immigrated to the US in 1870. Here he adopted the now famous surname of the family. He married Mary Genevive Laufersweiler who was of German descent. Her father Conrad Laufersweiler was from the Hunsrück, her mother Caroline Wasem was also born in Germany.
After fighting in World War I, our entrepreneur bought his first hotel in Texas in 1919. 6 years later he opened the first hotel he had built himself in Dallas. Despite having troubles, his company survived the great depression. At the end of the 1940s, it acquired for example the famous Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Since 1948, it has expanded globally and thus became the first international hotel chain. It stands for the highest degree of quality and service and therefore influenced the standard of modern tourism.
Personal matters didn’t go as well for the devoted catholic. He was married 3 times, for example to Zsa Zsa Gabor. Subsequent generations often made headlines. His firstborn son was married to Elizabeth Taylor for a few months and known for drug and alcohol excesses as well as his affairs. He died in 1969 with only 42 years from a heart attack. The hotel chain was taken over by his younger brother, whose granddaughter is today one of the most famous It- and party-girls.
On 03 January 1979 the hotelier died at the age of 91 in Santa Monica. On his gravestone you can, consistent with his birthday today, read: “Charity is a supreme virtue and the great channel through which the mercy of God is passed on to mankind. Christmas is forever.”
The biggest part of his fortune, he left to his foundation that he founded it 1944. It supports humanitarian projects that are supposed to alleviate human suffering around the world according to his wished. His son will do likewise.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, we are of course talking about Conrad Nicholson Hilton, the founder of the Hilton hotel chain, of the Conrad N. Hilton foundation and the great-grandfather of Paris and Nicky Hilton.