Monday, September 20, 2010

Charles Clark Hildinger

Charles Clark Hildinger, founder of the Hildinger Theaters, and who was known as the "Five Cent King" of Trenton, was born in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania on 15 Dec 1876, the youngest child of John A. Hildinger and Mary Jane Cochran Hildinger.  His father a farmer and Civil War veteran, came to this country from Wurttemburg, Germany with his parents as a toddler.  His father died when he was eleven and three years later Clark left the farm at the age of fourteen for better opportunities.  He tried several careers before finding success with the movie business.  He first went to Pittsburgh, then to Kittanning, Pa where he worked in a pottery.  Next he went to McKeesport, Pa where he worked as a clerk selling carpets.  Tiring of carpets he went to Trenton and became interested in the newspaper business.  He went to work for the circulation department of the Trenton Times.  After a couple of years, he and his brother-in-law C. C. Cutler bought the circulation of the times and owned it jointly.

Charles made several visit to his former home in Pittsburgh and on one visit became fascinated with a moving picture show.  He counted the people going in and calculated the evening's take.  An idea was born.  He went back to Trenton and created "The Bijou."  He and his brother-in-law created Dream Amusement Company.  Within a few years, he was the sole owner, with Cutler dedicating himself to the newspaper circulation business.  Hildinger added more theaters, The Nicolet, The Royal and five others.  With these successes, he branched out adding The Taylor Opera House. He also had extensive amusement holdings in Belmar and was affiliated with an amusement pier there among others.  In 1927 he became treasurer of the New Jersey Motion Picture Owners' Association.  In 1929, Governor Lawson appointed him to the Mercer County Tax Board.

He was also known for his charitable gestures especially to children of Trenton.  He would often provide provide free showings at his theaters and outings to the shore for the orphans.

On 27 Oct 1915, he married Helen Beatrice Dunn and they had two children, John Clark born in 1916 and Claire Helen born in 1920.  Charles died unexpectedly of a heart attack on 2 Sep 1931 at the age of 54 leaving his family to carry on his legacy.

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