Einstein visits Deep Creek Lake for secret vacation

Robbie Steiding sits on the lap of Albert Einstein during a 1946 secret visit that Einstein made to Western Maryland. The famous scientist was invited by Robbie’s father, John Steiding of Midland, to vacation at Deep Creek Lake.

Many people consider Albert Einstein the smartest man who ever lived. Yet when this man who knew almost everything needed to unwind one summer, the vacation spot he chose was Deep Creek Lake.

Einstein vacationed for two weeks in September 1946 at the lake. He was seeking a place where he could find escape from the unwanted media that wrote about how his theories had led to the creation of the atomic bomb.

John Steiding of Midland invited Einstein to take a vacation at the lake. Steiding was a chemist at the Celanese plant and came to know Einstein through a co-worker’s wife, who was sculpting the great man’s bust. “Einstein, who wasn’t very tall, found it uncomfortable to pose for the artwork since his feet would not touch the floor. Steiding, being a handyman, made a footstool for Einstein,” according to Francis Tam in an article called “Einstein in Western Maryland.”

Besides being able to relax out of the national spotlight for a while, Einstein was also able to have Dr. Frank Wilson examine him for an aneurysm of the aorta of the abdomen.

Einstein stayed at Wilson’s lake cottage, the Mar-Jo-Lodge, for two weeks. “He took daily walks along the lake, frequently stopping to chat with strangers who had no idea who he was. He was sometimes seen fishing and also bird-watching with binoculars. He never skipped a meal but was a light eater. He drank a lot of water and lemonade; his favorite vegetable was fresh corn-on-the-cob from Garrett County,” Tam wrote.

In particular, Einstein loved sailing, either with friends or alone. “During one of his many hours spent on the lake with Steiding, Einstein remarked that ‘here you can get nearer to God,’” reported the Cumberland News. At times, “people would realize that he wasn’t around, go searching for him, and find him in Harry Muma’s little sailboat, ‘single-handing,’ on the Turkey Neck inlet,” according to the Garrett County Historical Society’s “Deep Creek Lake, Past and Present.”

During a visit, Steiding’s brother Fred asked Einstein to explain his famous theory of relativity in layman’s terms.

“‘Put it this way,’ said Einstein, ‘if you sit on a park bench with your sweetheart, an hour seems like a minute. If you sit on a hot stove by mistake, a minute seems like an hour,’” Tam wrote.

Einstein later said that his vacation at Deep Creek Lake was “one of the most restful and zestful vacations.”

When the vacation ended, Einstein showed himself to be a generous guest, giving Blair Thompson, who had attended him during the vacation, a $50 gratuity, which would equate to more than $1,000 today.

Following the vacation, he was back to work. In October, he wrote that the United Nations should form a world government that maintained peace under the threat of nuclear devastation, according to Ze’ev Rosenkranz in “The Einstein Scrapbook.” Einstein also published his papers on his unified field theory in the 1950s.

To the world, the vacation remained a secret until the Cumberland News revealed the story in 1979.

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