Born in 1900, John Willard Marriott was raised on his family’s farm and given a great deal of responsibility. When he was just 14-years-old, he was sent from Utah to San Francisco via railcar with 3,000 sheep in his care.
When he returned home from a Mormon mission in 1921, he passed through Washington, D.C. and noticed a site that would alter the course of his life: push cart salesmen were selling out of refreshments and ice cream faster than they could stock their carts.
It wasn’t long until he opened a nine-stool root beer stand and his business grew to include a restaurant chain and the first Marriott hotel. But just as his business life was coming together, Marriott was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes and given just six months to live.The news didn’t slow him down and remarkably he lived another 50 years. As his chain of hotels grew, he continued to diversify his food service business and is credited with inventing airline in-flight food service.
Conrad Nicholson Hilton was born on Christmas Day in 1887. He grew up in a large family and worked in his father’s general store, where he learned important customer service lessons and began developing the entrepreneurial skills which would sever him well in the business industry.
Hilton moved to Texas and at 30-years-old, bought his first hotel. He continued to purchase and build hotels across the Lone Star state until the Great Depression nearly destroyed his business. He lost several of his hotels during this time but eventually he regained them.
By the time of his death in 1979, he owned almost 200 hotels in 38 cities including the famed Plaza Hotel and Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and 54 hotels overseas. The famous Hilton sisters, Pairs and Nicky are his great granddaughters.