Einstein Visits The Robert Treat Hotel in 1933
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Einstein Visits The Robert Treat Hotel in 1933
HOW CAN YOU FORGET ALBERT EINSTEIN?
by Nathaniel S. (Buddy) Rosengarden
TIME MAGAZINES MAN OF THE 20TH CENTURY
In the year 1933 when I was seventeen years of age, my parents, two younger brothers and I were privileged to meet with Professor and Mrs. Albert Einstein and to spend almost an hour alone with them in a suite in The Robert Treat Hotel in Newark. The hotel is still in existence and considered one of Newark’s finest hotels. This is how this happened.
At the time Professor Einstein was already worldfamous because of his many great accomplishments, the most important of which were the development of his Theory of Relativity E = MC 2 and his work on splitting the atom. This gained him recognition years later as the father of nuclear energy and the atom bomb.
When we met Einstein was 54 years old and newly arrived in America after fleeing from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. He and his wife were to take up permanent residence in Princeton and Einstein was to headup Princeton’s newly established Institute for Advanced Learning. To formally honor his arrival in New Jersey, a reception was planned at The Robert Treat Hotel where my grandfather, recently widowed, resided.
My grandfather was Louis V. Aronson, a few years earlier honored as the city’s Most Prominent Citizen because of his many philanthropies, civic and business succeses. He was a story unto himself who is best remembered as the inventor of the famous Ronson Cigarette Lighter and many noteworthy technical inventions in the field of metallurgy. His factory in Newark employed over a thousand workers and LVA, as he was called, was regarded as a charismatic leader in the community. It was therefore fitting that the Governor of New Jersey appoint him to chair a committee for a reception to be held to officially welcome the Einsteins to the state.
Upon the death of my grandmother earlier in the year, my grandfather had taken up residence at the Robert Treat in a luxury suite of rooms. This was convenient because the reception for the Einsteins was to take place downstairs in the ballroom of the hotel.
On the big day of the reception, it was arranged that LVA would send his Rolls Royce and his uniformed chauffher, John O’Malley, to pick up the Einsteins in Princeton and deliver them to the hotel to relax in his suite and refresh themselves prior to the start of the luncheon reception. This was thought to be a good idea as it was a long, hot drive to Newark from Princeton at a time when there was no such thing as air conditioning.
Upon their arrival at the hotel, as a crowd was starting to form, LVA and a number of notables greeted them at the curb and LVA then escorted them to his suite where he introduced them to us. We were awed! My mother, who was LVA’s oldest daughter, my father, my two brothers and I had been instructed by LVA to see to it the Einsteins were made comfortable. After turning the Einsteins over to us, LVA apologetically excused himself because he had to go down to the ballroom to supervise matters as chairman of the event. The Rosengarten Family were therefore alone in the suite with the Einsteins in our charge.
A table had been set up with coffee, tea, pastries and tidbits and because it was known the professor enjoyed smoking a pipe, an assortment of choice pipe tobaccos. There was also a box of Admiration Queen Havana cigars. Though the professor favored smoking a pipe, he occasionally enjoyed a good cigar and an Admiration was a top brand and LVA’s favorite.
Always a promoter of products he manufactured, IVA arranged gifts for the Einsteins, a monogrammed sterling silver Ronson Pocket Lighter for the professor and a pair of beautiful plated and enameled book ends for his wife that LVA’s company also manufactured. No one thought to offer cigarettes as it was known the professor would be the only smoker in the room.
Shortly after the Einsteins arrived and availed themselves of the suite’s facilities, we five Rosengartens sat with them in the parlor and engaged ourselves in pleasant s’mall talk with the professor doing most of the talking. He spoke English with a charming “kitchy” German accent; Mrs. Einstein spoke only German.
Most of the professor’s conversation was directed to my brothers and myself. Einstein obviously liked young people and showed an insatiable interest in our schooling, grilling us on what courses we took, which ones we liked best, which were the most difficult to master, which sports we liked etc. I shall never forget the twinkle in his eyes nor his warmth as he queried us.
Mrs Einstein, whom I later found out was the professor’s second wife, was not much in our conversation, doubtless because she spoke no English. Occasionally her husband brought her in by translating for her things that had just been said into German, as if they were of import deserving of being translated. She mijht as well have not been there.
While all of this was going on in the suite, LVA was downstairs in the ballroom supervising things and greeting arriving dignitaries from every walk of life. There were governors, senators, key industrialists, clergy, celebrities from the field of entertainment etc among the 500 people invited to attend what was considered a major event.
Back in the suite, during our conversation with the professor, a minor upset of our plans occurred. Professor Einstein pulled out his pipe and my father jumped up to 3
profer some of the cans of choice pipe tobacco to him. Much to our surprise, the professor politely told us he only smoked cigarette tobacco in his pipe. He would crumble a few cigarettes, preferably Camels, and smoke them and there were no cigarettes there!
My father, in panic, handed my younger brother, Richard, a couple of dollars and sent him down to the lobby to purchase a carton of Camels at the newsstand and to hurry back up. Richard still vividly remembers what happened.
Richard (at the newsstand): A carton of Camels, please.
Newsstand proprietor: How old are you, kid? You gotta be eighteen to buy cigarettes. It’s the law!
Richard: But they’re for Professor Albert Einstein. He’s upstairs and he only smokes cigarettes in his pipe.
Proprietor: Get outa here kid. If you want cigarettes,
an adult has to buy them Go get your ‘father’.
Poor Richard had to run up eight floors of stairs to the suite, because the elevators were jammed with people. My father had to rundown and up the stairs to buy the professor’s Camels and thought he would drop dead doing so. I often wonder why this could not have been one of those times when Einstein smoked his occasional cigar.
After about an hour, my grandfather came up to the suite to escort the Einsteins to the ballroom where where the festivities were to take place. This was not before I asked the professor to autograph a program prepared for the event. He graciously inscribed, “To Buddy with all good wishes, Albert Einstein”.
I treasured this autograph and kept it in my drawer for many, many years though many family moves from residence to residence in the belief it might someday be worth a lot of money because of Einstein’s eminence. He died in 1955 in Princeton at the age of 76 and I continued to hold on to the program for another twenty years. Finally I decided to test the waters to see how much an Einstein autograph would be worth and was shocked and disappointed to be offered only fifty dollars for it from a reliable autograph dealer in New York.
I was suspicious the dealer was trying to cheat me. “Only fifty dollars for a genuine Albert Einstein Autograph?” I asked. He opened a drawer behind his counter and pulled out a fistful of Einstein autographs. Look, mister, he said. If instead of writing “To Buddy with all good wishes” Einstein had written something like “Dear Buddy, I’ll tell you a secret. I didn’t write the theory, I copied it from the kid sitting next to me.” Then I’d give you a million dollars! Autographs like yours and these aren’t worth much. My dreams of selling my autograph for a fortune were blasted.
I no longer have the autograph. I’m afraid I changed residences one time two often and lost it while doing so. However everything i have stated in this article is the God’s honest truth – except, perhaps the exact quotes of the conversation that took place almost seventy years ago. At the time of my meeting with Albert Einstein he was already world famous but certainly not as famous as he was to become later on. In retrospect, of the billions and billions of people who have inhabited this earth over one-hundred year period, very few can claim to have rubbed elbows with the Man of the Century.