Hughes was the son of Allene Stone Gano and of Howard R. Hughes Sr. , a successful inventor and businessman from Missouri. He had English, Welsh and some French Huguenot ancestry, and was a descendant of John Gano (1727-1804), the minister who allegedly baptized George Washington. His father patented (1909) the two-cone roller bit, which allowed rotary drilling for petroleum in previously inaccessible places. The senior Hughes made the shrewd and lucrative decision to commercialize the invention by leasing the bits instead of selling them, obtained several early patents, and founded the Hughes Tool Company in 1909. Hughes' uncle was the famed novelist, screenwriter, and film-director Rupert Hughes.