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Lasker, Albert Davis, 1880-1952



  • Existence: 1880 - 1952

Albert D. Lasker was born in Freiburg, Germany, on May 1, 1880. The son of German-Jewish immigrants, Lasker grew up in Galveston, Texas. As a young man, Lasker dreamed of becoming a newspaper reporter. In an attempt to coerce his son into a better profession, Lasker’s father, Morris Lasker, sent Albert to Chicago, Illinois to work as an office boy for the advertising agency of Lord & Thomas when he was 17.

A breakout star at Lord & Thomas, Lasker was perpetually searching for the answer to the question, “What is advertising?” In 1904, Lasker met ad man John E. Kennedy, who told him that advertising is “Salesmanship in print.” This short answer to Lasker’s question, in addition to Claude Hopkins’ idea of “Reason Why” advertising, would affect the course of his entire advertising career. With a new direction for advertising campaigns, Albert Lasker, and by extension, Lord & Thomas, gained clients such as Sunkist (named by Lasker), Kotex, American Tobacco Company, and Pepsodent, among others. Lord & Thomas were at the forefront of advertising innovation, using films, billboards, and radio to market their clients’ products. By the time Lasker retired from advertising and sold Lord & Thomas to Emerson Foote, Fairfax Cone, and Don Belding in 1942, he had become known as the father of modern advertising.

Albert Lasker’s involvement with Republican politics began when he was just sixteen years old. While working for The Galveston News, Lasker travelled with Republican Robert B. Hawley’s congressional campaign to report on Hawley’s speeches. The experience made a lifetime Republican out of Lasker. He utilized his public relations experience as he ventured into political life, serving as a key advisor in Warren G. Harding’s 1920 campaign for President of the United States. Once in office, Harding appointed Lasker as chairman of the United States Shipping Board, a position he held from 1921 to 1923. Lasker’s public relations skills were utilized again in the advertising blitz that ruined Upton Sinclair’s 1934 campaign for Senator of California. In his personal politics, Lasker stayed true to his Republican ideals throughout his life. His biggest ideological shift came during World War II. Initially a staunch isolationist, Lasker switched his stance during World War II, going so far as to endorse Douglas Miller’s book, “You Can’t Do Business With Hitler!”

In later years, Lasker’s life was heavily influenced by his third wife, Mary, and her devotion to philanthropy; among the many causes they frequently donated to were cancer research, medical research, and the birth control movement, with Lasker suggesting a new name for the Birth Control Federation—Planned Parenthood. Albert Lasker died in 1952 at the age of 72. Today, the Lasker Awards, given to those who have made major contributions to the field of medicine or medical research, remains a testament to Lasker’s devotion to philanthropy and championing innovation.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Albert D. Lasker (1880-1952) Collection, 1884-2010

Identifier: MS172
Abstract The Albert D. Lasker Collection contains the primary and secondary materials used by Arthur W. Schultz and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank while writing The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (but True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century. Materials in the collection include interviews, correspondence, client files, and advertisements.
Dates: 1884-2010