Albert Einstein’s First Visit to the United States. 1921

Albert Einstein on first trip to the United States, 1921.

In 1921, Albert Einstein made his first visit the United States, the country he would later make his home some 15 years later. He was 42 years old. The trip, in the company of Chaim Weizman, was a fundraising trip aimed at raising money for the yet to be founded Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Einstein was an odd convert to Zionism since he was at best skeptical of the entire concept of nationalism. But a mix of his deep attachment to his Jewish heritage and the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe made him a committed Zionist for most of his adult life. His trip actually divided American Jews, as the more desperate and intense European Zionism clashed with its more restrained and cautious American counterpart. Many American Jews were not Zionists at all and saw the movement as an obstacle to full their acceptance as Americans.

These photographs, from the Harris & Ewing collection at the Library of Congress are from Einstein’s visit to Washington, DC., here shown with his wife Elsa.

A dozen years later, Einstein would resettle permanently in the United States. He renounced his German citizenship soon after Adolf Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 and lived in Princeton, New Jersey for the remainder of his life. Here, Einstein’s Declaration of Intention to become a United States citizen.

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  1. There is an apocryphal story connected with that trip, that during it they visited an observatory, where Mrs. Einstein was watching someone peer into one of the large telescopes. “What are you doing?”, she asked. “Exploring the heavens”, was the reply. “Oh”, she said, “my husband does that with a piece of paper and and a pencil”.

  2. Interesting detail in that 1933 declaration form. Einstein moved to the U.S. from (British) Bermuda? Was he there for long?

    I didn’t think he spent much time in between departure from Germany and moving to the U.S. East Coast.

  3. Yeah, I wasn’t sure about that either. I think he was briefly in Belgium and did spend a short time in the UK. Those I know. He went to Belgium from the USA and renounced his German citizenship there. All I can figure is maybe he stopped in Bermuda on the ship back to the USA and for whatever immigration/status type reason that had to be listed as his last foreign place of residence of where he was directly coming from.

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