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Howard Hughes‘ father invented a drill bit that became integral to the drilling operations in Texas’ rich oil fields. When his father died, Howard left school and took over the family business — the Hughes Tool Company — and inherited immense wealth. In 1926, Howard Hughes relocated to Hollywood, where he started producing movies that were notorious for going way over budget, with content that left censors with a lot of work on their hands. A man of many interests, Hughes was also fascinated by aviation and had studied engineering at the California Institute of Technology before his father’s death (per Britannica). He started the Hughes Aviation Company in 1932, and went on to design, build, and test his own planes, including a massive wooden plane known variously as the H-4 Hercules or the Hughes Flying Boat, though often best remembered by the name it received from the press: the Spruce Goose (via Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, where the aircraft resides today).
In 1946, while testing one of his company’s new planes, the XF-11, Hughes was seriously injured in a crash. Hughes developed a drug addiction and his lifelong obsessive-compulsive disorder worsened, according to the BBC. Hughes also had extreme germophobia and was known to wash his hands until they started bleeding and would burn his clothing if he thought there were too many germs on them. By the late 1950s, Hughes had vanished from public life and sequestered himself high atop the Desert Inn, Las Vegas, which he owned.