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Howard Hughes. Gouache on paper, 1948, by Ernest Hamlin Baker. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of William James IV.

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Hughes, Howard (24 December 1905–05 April 1976), aviator, manufacturer, and film producer, was born Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., in Houston, Texas, the son of Howard Robard Hughes, Sr., a mining engineer, and Allene Gano. Hughes was three years old when his father devised a drilling bit that revolutionized oil drilling, resulting in a great profit for his tool company. While his parents were gregarious socialites, Hughes as a boy was quiet and introspective, showing little interest in school other than a leaning toward mathematics and an ability to build things with wires and scraps of metal. Greatly attached to his devoted mother, he stood in awe of his personable father. Those who came to know him years later claim that Hughes never considered himself his equal. At the age of fourteen, Hughes was enrolled in the Fessenden School in West Newton, Massachusetts. During a vacation at home his mother denied him a motorcycle, believing it to be unsafe. He then turned his bicycle into a motorized vehicle by using parts from a car starter and batteries. On another occasion, when his father promised him he could have his choice of present, Hughes chose a ride in a flying boat. With that he discovered the joy of aviation, a joy that soon became obsessive....