In 1922, the world was changing rapidly, as the countries of the globe were settling in following the outcomes of a brutal world war, while also on the verge of another upcoming global calamity.
In America, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. was dedicated. The dedication ceremony was officiated by former U.S. President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Howard Taft. Special guests at the ceremony included Robert Todd Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln’s son), Robert Morton (the President of the Tuskegee Institute), President Warren G. Harding, and Vice President Calvin Coolidge.
Later that year, President Harding signed the Fordney-McCumber Tariff Act into law. The new tariff placed a high tax on goods from foreign countries that were imported into the U.S. and was a prime example of “Protectionism” as an economic policy between the two World Wars.
Also in America, the Great Railroad Strike, also known as the Railway Shopmen’s Strike, began in July. Seven of the sixteen major railway unions at the time joined together to protest wage cuts for railway maintenance workers. At the start of the strike about 400,000 workers walked off the job and while the strike had some economic effects across the country, the running of the railroads was largely unaffected, as many of the workers who operated the trains did not join the organized strike.
In Great Britain that year, the Irish Civil War began. The conflict was fought between the Irish Nationalists and the Irish Republicans. In addition, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) was formed and financed by a Post Office license fee of 10 shillings, payable by anyone owning a radio receiver.
On the morning of June 24, 1922, the German minister for foreign affairs, Walther Rathenau was shot dead by assassins in front of his house. This sent the German government and their economy into a tailspin.
Meanwhile in India, Mohandas Gandhi preached for mass civil disobedience, non-violence and peaceful resistance against British Rule.
Yes, the planet seemed to be settling into a new pattern of thinking and operating. Wars lead to peace and peace fell under new conflicts. Peace and prosperity was spread, in part, through technology and innovation.
1922 was also a busy year of thinking and change for Albert Einstein. He completed his first paper on unified field theory, went to Paris to help normalize French-German relations, and joined an intellectuals committee at the League of Nations.
In November of that year, shortly before heading to Asia for a lecture tour, he learned that he had been the recipient of the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics. But rather than head to Stockholm for the award ceremony, he decided to keep his plans and continued on to Japan, which he toured just after winning the Nobel Prize.
When he arrived in Tokyo, thousands greeted him at the Imperial Palace to witness his meeting the emperor and empress, Nearly 2,500 paid to see his first lecture in the city, which lasted almost four hours with translation.
When Einstein arrived in Kobe, Japan, crowds flocked his lectures. “No living person deserves this sort of reception,” he told his wife, Elsa, amused at the throngs who waited outside his hotel balcony in hopes of catching a glimpse of him. “I’m afraid we’re swindlers. We’ll end up in prison yet,” he joked.
While staying at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, a hotel bellhop came to their hotel door to make a delivery to Albert and Elsa Einstein. The young bellhop refused a tip from the famous man, but Einstein wanted to give the hotel worker something, as customary, for his efforts.
So on a piece of Imperial Hotel stationery, Einstein wrote in German, his theory of happiness: A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness. On a second sheet, he wrote another message: Where there’s a will there’s a way.
He talked with the bellhop and encouraged him to save the notes — “they just might be valuable in the future,” he joked.
In an auction in Jerusalem in the spring of 2018, the note on happiness sold to an anonymous European bidder for $1.56 million. The second note fetched $240,000.
A spokesman for the auction house, Meni Chadad, told The New York Times that it had expected the notes would garner $5,000 to $8,000. When the sale was announced, he said, the room burst into applause.
“It was an all-time record for an auction of a document in Israel, and it was just wow, wow, wow,” Chadad said. “I think the value can be explained by the fact that the story behind the tip is so uplifting and inspiring, and because Einstein continues to be a global rock star long after his death.”
Related: A Legacy of Second Chances
Einstein’s papers are archived at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he was a founder and member of the board. More than 2,000 of his papers have been digitized for online perusal, including his handwritten theory of relativity, a diary of his 1930-31 trip to the U.S., and the manuscript for an article titled “E=mc 2: The Most Urgent Problem of Our Time.
There are also his notes from lectures he was giving on general relativity in Berlin and Zurich in 1918-19. In an entry from Nov. 9, 1918, the day that German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated the throne, Einstein wrote: [Lecture] cancelled due to revolution.
The seller of the Imperial Hotel notes is reportedly a grandson of the Japanese bellboy’s brother, who today, lives in Germany. It turns out Einstein’s theory of valuation was right on the money. Einstein was famously quoted as saying; Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it. Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.
Well, no doubt, the family of a young Japanese bellhop experienced the wonder first hand. They also learned of another powerful force, one of true value offered from a genius that money cannot buy — contentment. Have you achieved it?
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