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Hughes Tool Company

Howard Robard Hughes was born on Christmas Eve 1905 in Houston, Texas.  His father Howard Hughes Sr., called big Howard, was a Harvard educated lawyer that never practiced law.  He was an entrepreneur and promoter always drilling for oil; rich one day broke the next, until he invented a revolutionary self sharpening oil tool drill bit.  "Sonny" as he was nicknamed, was the apple of his father’s eye and pampered by his overprotective mother.  Sonny was shy by his very nature and preferred tinkering with mechanical things rather than to socialize.  He entertained himself for days at a time in a workshop that big Howard built for him at their home. 

His mother died unexpectedly when he was only 16.  Big Howard sensed that loss in young Howard and included him in his exotic travels and lifestyle for the next three years.  It was perhaps a bonding period for them. This was a time of extravagance, lavish parties, games of chance, expensive clothes, hotel suites, flash money; and a world largely nocturnal, a world generously populated by breathtaking women.  Sonny had a monthly allowance of $5,000.  I suspect it brought him out of his shyness and he enjoyed himself. Then big Howard suddenly died of a heart attack. The young Hughes was only 19 and inherited 75% of the stock in Hughes Tool Company.  His father had advised him never to do business with partners.

In Texas, the law requires that you must be 21 years old to control corporate stock.  The relatives who owned the other 25% did not want young Howard to run the company.  Howard learned quickly at an early age how to manipulate politicians.  He was an excellent golfer. Howard began playing golf with the judge and convinced the court he was competent to take control of the assets.  Hughes then borrowed enough money, bought the relatives out and never had another partner or stockholder…… ever.  The oil tool drill bit was revolutionary and in high demand because of the oil exploration boom worldwide.  The patents were legally secured.  The tool bits were not sold, but leased.  Major oil companies ordered them by the thousands. There was no competition. The tool company provided Hughes with practically unlimited cash flow to develop his ideas, dreams and his genius.

Bob McCaffery

Aviation Beginnings ; in his own words

Hughes: My only comment here is Howard Hughes came in contact with speed at an early age and then if you could strike out 'that even today he drives a Chevrolet substantially faster than the law of common sense would call advisable'...

...Good grades at Fessenden and was an outstanding student at Thatcher but I was not goaded by my father and this had nothing to do with my learning to fly. The first opportunity I had to come in contact with the operation of an aircraft was at New London, Connecticut. We were at that time staying at the Griswold Hotel on the Thames River and we attended the Yale-Harvard boat races. My father had been on one of the crews at Harvard. I doubt that it was the Varsity Crew but he had some interest in rowing at Harvard and he was ardently anxious that Harvard win the race and promised me anything I wanted if Harvard should win. This was back in the old days when Harvard used the short stroke and Yale the long stroke. I remember that very well. We sat in the train and watched the race. My father thought I was going to ask for a canoe with a sail on it which I had been badgering him all summer to buy for me, but instead when Harvard won and he was ready to pay off his obligation to me I asked to be permitted to fly with a pilot who had an old broken down seaplane anchored in the river in front of the hotel and my father begrudgingly consented. He didn't like he looks of the contraption, corroded wires and so forth and so on but he finally gave in and this was the very first contact I had with flying...The age is correct -- 14.

White: Had your father done any flying?

Hughes: No. None at all. He was an ardent automobile driver but to my knowledge had never been up in an airplane.

I remember the airplane very well. It was a Curtis Flying Boat - not a land plane on pontoons. It was a single hull flying boat and the engine was overhead. It was a Biplane, and I'm quite sure it was a pusher. I think the engine was ahead of the propeller. If I remember right it was an OX5V-8 engine...

Father, high living and extravagant...anything but an efficient manager.

Hughes: The men in Houston worship him - why not say "his father, though a brilliant inventor, was prone to be extravagant." I wouldn't like anything about his management.

(1) He owns a factory that pours money into his pocket. . . .
(2) He hasn't seen the factory for 15 years and
(3) he runs it by telephone...

Hughes: (1) That isn't true - it makes some money but that goes into the Aircraft, etc. It doesn't pour into my pocket (2) This isn't true either - it hasn't been 15 years

White: Well, how long has it been?

Hughes: I don't know exactly - but more like 18 months. And on (3) that would be very much resented by the people down there.

White: OK I'll fix it.

Click Images to Enlarge
The Revolutionary Hughes
Oil Tool Drill Bit
The Hughes Tool Company
Houston, Texas
"Big" Howard Hughes
Howard "Sonny" Hughes "Sonny" at age 8 Mother
Allene Hughes and Howard
Hughes, a "scratch" golfer    

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