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LASKER, ALBERT DAVIS

LASKER, ALBERT DAVIS (1880–1952). Albert Davis Lasker, pioneer advertising executive, son of Nettie (Davis) and Morris Lasker, was born in Galveston, Texas, on May 1, 1880, the third of eight children. He started work as a reporter and came to be majority owner of Lord and Thomas, a top advertising firm in Chicago and the source of major advertising innovations. When he was twelve he published the Galveston Free Press, a four-page weekly newspaper. When he graduated from Ball High School in 1895, he joined the Galveston News as a reporter. His father, concerned that his son could not earn an adequate living as a reporter, intervened and secured a job for him in Chicago in 1898 as a copywriter with Lord and Thomas, a firm in which the elder Lasker had a business acquaintance. By 1904 Albert had become a partner of the firm, and in 1912 he bought out his partners and became the sole owner of the biggest ad agency in the business. By this time the firm had quintupled its total annual billings, an accomplishment due in large part to Lasker's initiative and talent.

Lasker's contributions to advertising included the production and popularization of trademarks for such firms as Lucky Strike cigarettes, Pepsodent, Kleenex, Palmolive, Studebaker, Sunkist, RCA, and Frigidaire. He made innovative contributions to the merchandising of canned food and evaporated milk, helped make citrus fruits something to drink as well as to eat, encouraged women to smoke, and introduced them to Kotex. He became one of the first to see the power of radio advertising; especially using "Reason-Why" advertising, he helped make broadcasting a national force.

In 1902 he married Flora Warner; they had three children. Flora died in 1936, and after a brief marriage to Doris Kenyon in 1938 Lasker married Mary Woodard Reinhardt in 1940. Lasker was hired by the Republican party as a publicity agent and later supervised publicity and speech-writing for Warren G. Harding's presidential campaign; he was the first advertising man to be used by a president. He served as assistant secretary of agriculture in 1917, was assistant to the chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1920, and, at age forty-one, became chairman of United States Shipping Board, a post he held from 1921 to 1923. He joined the Democratic party and under Franklin D. Roosevelt served as assistant secretary of the navy. In 1942 he permanently closed Lord and Thomas, in which he owned 95 percent interest, and became heavily involved in Jewish affairs, modern French art collecting, and philanthropy, particularly medical philanthropy. In 1942 the Laskers set up the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, which funds medical research and each year recognizes significant work by medical scientists by bestowing the Albert Lasker Award. Lasker retired in July 1944 to Arizona and died on May 30, 1952.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Stephen R. Fox, The Mirror Makers: A History of American Advertising and Its Creators (New York: Morrow, 1984). Galveston News, September 23, 1984. John Gunther, Taken at the Flood: The Story of Albert D. Lasker (New York: Harper, 1960). Albert D. Lasker, The Lasker Story: As He Told It (Chicago: Advertising Publications, 1963; rpt., Lincolnwood, Illinois: NTC Business Books, 1987). Natalie Ornish, Pioneer Jewish Texans (Dallas: Texas Heritage, 1989).

Natalie Ornish

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Natalie Ornish, "LASKER, ALBERT DAVIS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fla78), accessed September 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.