Albert Davis Lasker

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Albert Davis Lasker

Birthdate: (72)
Birthplace: Freiburg, Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Death: May 30, 1952 (72)
New York, New York, NY, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Morris Lasker and Nettie Heidenheimer Lasker
Husband of Mary Lasker
Ex-husband of Flora Lasker and Doris Lasker
Father of Edward Lasker; Mary Block and Frances Brody
Brother of Harry M. Lasker; Henrietta Rosensohn; Edward Lasker; Florina Lasker and Loula Davis Lasker

Managed by: Private User
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About Albert Davis Lasker

Albert Davis Lasker (May 1, 1880 - May 30, 1952) was an American businessman who is often considered to be the founder of modern advertising. He was born in Freiburg, Germany when his American parents Morris and Nettie Heidenheimer Davis Lasker were visiting their homeland; he was raised in Galveston, Texas, where Morris was the president of several banks.

Early career

He started out as a newspaper reporter while a teenager, but his father persuaded him to move to Chicago to try an advertising position at Lord & Thomas advertising agency, which he did in 1898. After he worked as an office boy for a year, one of the agency's salesmen left, and Lasker acquired his territory. It was during this time that Lasker created his first campaign. He hired a friend, Eugene Katz, to write the copy for a series of Wilson Ear Drum Company ads. They featured a photograph of a man cupping his ear. George Wilson, president of the Ear Drum company, adopted the ads and sales increased.

CEO Lord & Thomas

When Lord retired in 1903, Lasker purchased his share and became a partner. He purchased the firm in 1912 at the age of 32.

Chicago, along with New York, was the center of the nation's advertising industry. Lasker, known as the "father of modern advertising" made Chicago his base 1898-1942. As head of the Lord and Thomas agency, Lasker devised a copywriting technique that appealed directly to the psychology of the consumer. Women seldom smoked cigarettes; he told them if they smoked Lucky Strikes they could stay slender. Lasker's use of radio, particularly with his campaigns for Palmolive soap, Pepsodent toothpaste, Kotex products, and Lucky Strike cigarettes, not only revolutionized the advertising industry but also significantly changed popular culture.

Salesmanship in print

Lasker had an inquiring mind about what advertising was and how it worked. In 1904 he met John E. Kennedy who had been a Canadian mounted policemen and who now promised to tell him what advertising was. Lasker believed that advertising was news, but Kennedy said to him that, "news is a technique of presentation, but advertising is a very simple thing. I can give it to you in three words, it is 'salesmanship in print'".

The first client they put this principle to work on was The 1900 Washer Co. Such was the success of this, that within four months of running the first ad their advertising spend went from $15,000 a year to $30,000 a month and within six months were one of the three or four largest advertisers in the nation.

In 1908 he recruited Claude C. Hopkins to the firm specifically to work on The Van Camp Packaging Company (Van Camp's) account. The relationship lasted for 17 years.

Lasker is largely responsible for America's infatuation with orange juice. Lord & Thomas acquired the Sunkist Growers, Incorporated account in 1908, when Lasker was 28. The citrus industry was in a slump, and California growers were producing so many oranges that they were cutting down trees in order to limit supply. Lasker created campaigns that not only encouraged consumers to eat oranges, but also to drink orange juice. He was able to increase consumption enough that the growers stopped chopping down their groves.

Among Lasker's pioneering contributions were the introduction into schools of classes that would explain to young girls about menstruation (done to promote Kotex tampons). He is also credited as being the inventor of the soap opera, with being responsible for the fact that radio (and television after it) is an advertising-driven medium, and with having masterminded Warren G. Harding's election campaign in 1920.

Business interests

Lasker was an early owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. He acquired an interest in the team in 1916 then soon purchased majority control. He was the original planner for the Lasker Plan, a report that recommended baseball's governing authority be reformed which led to the creation of the office of the Commissioner of Baseball, and was responsible, along with his business partner Charles Weeghman, for moving the Cubs into the club's current home, Wrigley Field. In 1925, he sold the team to one of his minor partners, William Wrigley Jr.

Lasker was also the second-largest shareholder in the Pepsodent company, which had become a L&T client in 1916. It was sold to Lever Brothers in 1944.

He also owned one of finest golf courses in the world. The National Golf Review in 1939 had Lasker Golf Course in Lake Forest, Illinois listed in the No. 23 slot on its list of Top 100 Courses in the World. Lasker Golf Course was built on his private estate, Mill Road Farm. It was eventually perceived as too opulent and following the depression, Lasker donated the entire property to the University of Chicago.


Lasker was an active Republican who showed the party how to use modern advertising techniques to sell their candidates. He was a key advisor in the 1920 Harding campaign, which resulted in one of the largest landslides in history, as Warren G. Harding appealed for votes in newsreels, billboards and newspaper ads.

On June 9, 1921 President Harding's appointment of Lasker to chairman of the United States Shipping Board was confirmed by the Senate. Lasker took the job on condition that he would serve no more than two years--the confirmation represented a significant milestone, as he became only the third man of Jewish descent ever appointed to a high post in the federal government. Lasker inherited a large mess, with over 2,300 ships under Shipping Board control losing money every day. A full quarter of the fleet were wooden hulled, which by this time were obsolete. He disposed of useless ships at an average price of $30 a ton, causing criticism from Congress for "throwing our ships away". His accomplishments included the refitting of the SS Leviathan for passenger service, as well as originating ship-to-shore telephone services. Lasker, who had no previous experience in the shipping business before his appointment, true to his word, ended his service in office on July 1, 1923.

Sale of Lord and Thomas

His son, Edward joined the Lord & Thomas advertising firm in 1933 and worked there until 1942 when he moved to Los Angeles and became a Hollywood film producer and practiced law. At that time, after 30 years as its chief executive, Albert sold the firm to three senior executives, and it became Foote, Cone & Belding in 1942.

Lasker—and especially his third wife Mary Lasker—were nationally prominent philanthropists who played major roles in promoting and expanding the National Institutes of Health, helping its budget expand by a factor of 2000 times from $2.4 million in 1945 to $5.5 billion in 1985. Many leading scientists and researchers have been awarded the prestigious Lasker Award. On May 30, 1952 he died in New York at the age of 73. Albert Lasker is interred in a private mausoleum at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, NY.

Legacy, Lasker Awards

Albert Lasker was voted to the American National Business Hall of Fame. He used his great wealth to create and fund the Lasker Foundation to support philanthropic causes, particularly in the area of medical research. The Lasker Awards are named for him; eighty Lasker laureates have received a Nobel Prize.

  • Immigration: 1891
  • Census: 1910 - Chicago Ward 7, Cook, Illinois, USA
  • Census: 1930 - Chicago (Districts 1501-1750), Cook, Illinois, USA
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Albert Davis Lasker's Timeline

May 1, 1880
Freiburg, Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Age 23
May 15, 1912
Age 32
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
May 27, 1916
Age 36
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
May 30, 1952
Age 72
New York, New York, NY, USA