During much of the 20th century it was widely believed that one of the significant insights of special relativity was “relativistic mass.” Today there are two schools on that issue: the traditional view that embraces speed-dependent “relativistic mass,” and the more modern position that rejects it, maintaining that there is only one mass and it's speed-independent. This paper explores the history of “relativistic mass,” emphasizing Einstein's public role and private thoughts. We show how the concept of speed-dependent mass mistakenly evolved out of a tangle of ideas despite Einstein's prescient reluctance. Along the way there will be previously unrevealed surprises (e.g., Einstein never derived the expression for “relativistic mass,” and privately disapproved of it).

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