Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Related to the Hiltons? That's Hot

Those of you eager to learn how Paris Hilton is related to Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor should direct your attention to today's Indianapolis (Ind.) Star. Wikipedia has a bit more information. Brian Hines revealed last year his own Paris connection.

Unfortunately, Conrad Hilton was the son of a Norwegian immigrant, and is not related to the Hiltons who settled early in New Hampshire, from whom I am descended. My closest connection to obscene wealth is through my great-grandfather Elton L. Dunham, who was the second-cousin of Henry Solomon Wellcome.

Who was he? Well, an exhibition at the British Museum is dedicated to him. He was a physician, and helped found Burroughs Wellcome & Co. in England to import American pharmaceuticals. His wife having run off with British novelist Somerset Maugham, and having no children, Henry left his company and estate of about £3,000,000 to the Wellcome Trust, now "the world's largest medical research charity," in 1936. You might know the Burroughs Wellcome company by its current name: GlaxoSmithKline, whose annual earnings would make Conrad Hilton blush.

But, as my father bemoans, our ancestors were generally of the dirt-farmer variety, and no hefty checks are forthcoming from long-lost cousins. On the bright side, we don't have to hang our heads in shame whenever Paris speaks.

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