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Hilton Hotels Corporation

Diana J. Kleiner General Entry

Hilton Hotels Corporation, headquartered in Beverly Hills, California, develops, owns, manages, and franchises hotels, hotel-casinos, resorts, and vacation ownership resorts in the United States and throughout the world. Hilton Hotels was the first hotel chain to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company grew out of the Mobley Hotel at Cisco, Texas, which Conrad Nicholson Hilton purchased in 1919. In 1929 Hilton consolidated his properties into Hilton Hotels, Incorporated. Despite advertising in national magazines, the firm came close to bankruptcy in 1931 as economic hardship lessened nationwide travel. Hilton recovered only with the help of Shearn and William Lewis Moody, Jr., of Galveston, and a number of other investors, merging his hotels with the Moodys' operations to form the National Hotel Company, for which he served as one-third owner and acting general manager. After the merger failed, Hilton resumed his independent operation in 1934 with five hotels, and in 1938 he acquired the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco, his first hotel outside of Texas.

In 1942 Hilton established his corporate headquarters at Beverly Hills, California. Hilton Hotels was incorporated under Delaware laws in 1946 and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange by 1947. The company began to expand abroad, starting in Mexico, and in 1948 Hilton formed Hilton Hotels International, a wholly owned subsidiary. By 1949 the company had entered the gaming business with the development of a casino at San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1954 Hilton assumed the mortgage and operation of the Shamrock Hotel in Houston and acquired the Statler chain of eight hotels (with two more under construction). This action resulted in a suit by the United States Justice Department alleging violation of the Clayton Antitrust Act. Nonetheless, the company pioneered the idea of airport hotels by 1959, when it opened the San Francisco Airport Hilton. The company also eventually acquired the Mayflower in Washington, the Palmer House in Chicago, and the Plaza and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, along with fifty-four hotels abroad.

In 1965 the company formed its Statler Hilton Inns (later known as Hilton Inns), a corporate franchising subsidiary. In 1966 Hilton's son, William Barron Hilton, became president of Hilton Hotels Corporation. Hilton International was spun off as a separate corporation in 1964, with Conrad Hilton as president, before becoming a subsidiary of Trans-World Airlines in 1967. Hilton Hotels Corporation entered the gaming business in 1970, when Barron Hilton purchased what became the Las Vegas Hilton and the Flamingo Hilton. In 1975 Hilton sold a 50 percent interest in six of its hotels to Prudential Insurance. Conrad Hilton died in 1979 at the age of ninety-one, and Barron Hilton assumed the chairmanship.

Hilton's original company slogan, "Minimax," reflected a policy of minimum price for maximum service. Later the company adopted the slogans "Across the Nation," "Around the World," and "So Nice to Come Home To." Hilton International fostered the goal of "World Peace Through International Trade and Travel." After the Havana Hilton was seized by the Cuban government, however, Hilton established international hotels only in locally owned buildings that the corporation then managed and staffed. By the late 1980s more than 270 United States hotels and inns operated under the Hilton name, and the firm continued to expand through Conrad International; through a domestic, moderately priced suburban hotel chain known as CrestHil and later as Hilton Garden Inns; and through a suite-only line of hotels. In the early 1990s, Hilton Hotels Corporation had sales of $514 million and profits of $99 million. In 124 cities there were franchised Hilton Inns, which paid to use the Hilton name and reservation service. Hilton owned up to half of some of the thirty hotels it managed, including the Beverly Hilton, and eighteen hotels outright. The Las Vegas Hilton and Flamingo Hilton provided up to 44 percent of the firm's income by 1990. Under chairman and president Barron Hilton, the company pursued a strategy of globalization and concentration of resources on its most profitable properties. In 1991 Hilton established the Hilton Grand Vacations Company, a nationwide system of vacation ownership resorts, and acquired the O'Hare Hilton, the only hotel in O'Hare International Airport. In 1993 the firm also entered into partnership with Caesars World, Incorporated, and Circus Enterprises, Incorporated, to develop Canada's Windsor Casino. The fastest-growing aspect of the business was the company's five Nevada gaming properties, along with gaming hotels in Australia and Turkey and riverboat casinos in Kansas City and New Orleans. Under the Hilton and Conrad brand names, the firm employed 70,000 people in forty-one states and seven countries. Of its 51,785 employees in sixty-six corporate-owned or managed hotels, 22,799 were union members. Assets in 1993 totaled $2.67 billion, and the company received almost $227 million in cash from its operations.

Thomas Ewing Dabney, The Man Who Bought the Waldorf: The Life of Conrad N. Hilton (New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1950). Conrad Hilton, Be My Guest (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1957). The International Directory of Company Histories (Chicago: St. James Press, 1988-).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Hilton Hotels Corporation,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 13, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995