Albert Einstein’s First Visit 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.