The ultimate in credit credentials, "Hilton Carte
Blanche," the new, all-purpose credit card, was
created in October. An affiliate, Hilton Credit Corporation, has been formed, and will commence
operations about April 1, 1959. This new company
currently has 2,927,383 shares of $1 par value common stock, issued and outstanding, of its authorized
5,000,000 shares. Hilton Hotels Corporation owns
1,000,000 of the shares, or 34 per cent, which it
received in return for transferring the established
credit card list, numbering almost one million, and
other assets of Hilton Hotels' Central Credit Card
Department. The other 66 per cent of the shares
were issued pursuant to an offering of rights to
Hilton stockholders, by which they could purchase,
at a subscription price of $3.25, one share of Hilton
Credit for each two shares of Hilton Hotels common
stock held by them. In addition to the approximately $6,000,000 equity capital raised through the
offering, the credit card company has arranged for
banking lines of credit aggregating $22,000,000.
The holders of the established Hilton card formed
the nucleus for Carte Blanche, but the list is being
expanded daily. The card will be honored for Hilton
Hotels' goods and services, as well as at other
carefully selected establishments now being signed,
which are known as Associates. These include such
businesses as other hotels, transportation lines, restaurants, gasoline stations, gift shops, ticket agencies,
and automobile rental agencies. Hilton Credit Corporation has worked out a comprehensive plan
which has distinct advantages for an Associate,
namely, immediate payment for charge accounts,
elimination of bookkeeping, and lower rates. Hilton
Credit Corporation will derive its revenue from
the discounting of charge accounts, and from an
annual membership fee of $6 for the use of Carte
Blanche outside of Hilton Hotel properties.
Over 32,000 Mobil service stations in 43 states
will become Associates under an agreement reached
in February with Socony Mobil Oil Company.
This is the first agreement between a national oil
marketer and an all-purpose credit card company.
Carte Blanche was created in response to requests
from Hilton credit card holders who felt the need
for a more widely-recognized credit credential. After
discussions with other credit card organizations, it
was decided that operation by a Hilton affiliate
would provide maximum assurance that Hilton's
high standards would be maintained.
It is intended that Carte Blanche will be more
useful in more places, and in more ways, than any
other credit card in existence. This added convenience to the traveling public should stimulate increased business at Hilton hotels.
The history of the term carte blanche is unusually
colorful. In 1461, carte blanche meant a hand without picture cards, in a game called Piquet. A player
received a ten-point bonus for holding such a hand.
The words carte blanche symbolized extra power,
and gradually became associated with any white
paper which gave the owner unlimited authority to
act as he pleased. The first political use of the words
concerned Charles II of England. In 1649, in a
maneuver to save his father's life, he sent Parliament carte blanche, to be filled in with whatever
terms it suggested. Parliament ignored the offer,
and Charles I was executed.
In the early eighteenth century, Louis XIV did
much to both popularize the phrase and make it
unpopular at the same time. He used carte blanche
indiscriminately to break his enemies. The term
soon spread to the military, with whom it became
a synonym for "unconditional surrender."
In Addison's Spectator, a popular publication of
the day, the phrase retained a military meaning,
but now concerned the War of the Sexes. Quoting
the Spectator: "I threw her carte blanche . . . desiring her to write upon it her own terms."
In 1766, Prime Minister William Pitt made an
official list of all the occasions upon which he had
used carte blanche during his lengthy and distinguished tenure of office. Among the populace, reports the Oxford English Dictionary, the term had
come to mean "full discretionary power."
And . . . there the phrase rested, much used but
infrequently held, until the Hilton Hotels Corporation infused it with fresh new meaning.