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Using the Collection
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At a Glance
This collection is arranged in two series.
Scope and Content
Albert Lasker is best known as an advertising executive and philanthropist. His papers consist primarily of correspondence and subject files from the last five years of his life. During these years, he experienced bouts of ill health that forced him to restrict his activities for extended periods. His papers do document his interests and philanthropic work in medicine, particularly as related to cancer and proposals for national health insurance and a national medical education fund. There is also some material related to the Lasker Foundation for Medical Research at the University of Chicago.
The collection includes a small amount of personal material, including appointment books, biographical information, clippings, contribution information, and mailing lists.
There is necessarily overlap between Albert Lasker's papers and the more extensive papers of his wife, Mary Lasker, whom he married in 1940. Additional information on the couple's philanthropic work is filed with her papers.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Albert Lasker papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Selected Related Material-- at Columbia
Reminiscences of Albert Davis Lasker, Oral History Research Office
Mary Lasker Papers, 1940-1993 Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Reminiscences of Mary Lasker : oral history, 1965 Oral History Research Office
Reminiscences of Mary Lasker : oral history, 1982 Oral History Research Office
Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Ownership and Custodial History
Bequest of Mary Lasker, 1995.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Source of acquisition--Lasker, Mary. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1995.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed cnc 7/--/2008.
2009-03-05 File created.
2009-04-17 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Albert Davis Lasker was born in Freiberg, Germany, on May 1, 1880, but was raised in Galveston, Texas. He was the third child of Morris Lasker, an investor and banker, and Nettie Davis Lasker.
Lasker was initially interested in journalism, and worked as a newspaper reporter during his teens. His father disapproved of this career, and in 1898 secured a position for him at Lord and Thomas, an advertising firm in Chicago. Lasker rose quickly at Lord and Thomas, becoming a partner in 1903, and sole owner within the next decade. He ultimately sold the firm to his partners and retired from active business at the end of 1942. Considered a pioneer in modern advertising, the firm's clients included Kotex, Lucky Strike, Pepsodent, Kleenex, Palmolive, Studebaker, Sunkist, RCA, and Frigidaire.
Lasker's interests were not limited to the world of advertising. From 1916-1925, he was part owner of the Chicago Cubs. Indeed, the Lasker plan for the reorganization of baseball after the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal paved the way for the election of the sport's first commissioner in 1920. He also supported the University of Chicago. He donated his private golf course to the university, and also gave one million dollars to establish the Lasker Foundation for Medical Research in 1928. He served as a trustee of the university from 1937-1942.
In addition to sports and education, Lasker also had an interest in politics that spanned some 34 years. Although he was a Republican, he served in both Republican and Democratic administrations. In 1917, he served as a special assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture under President Woodrow Wilson. He served as an Assistant to the Chairman of the National Republican Committee from 1918-1920, and worked on the campaign and election of President Warren Harding. He then served as the Chair of the United States Shipping Board from 1920-1923. Later, he was a floor leader for the Illinois delegation to the Republican National Convention in 1940.
Concerned with Jewish affairs on both a local and national level in the early 1940s, Lasker was the director of the Jewish Charities of Chicago and a member of the executive board of the American Jewish Committee. In memory of his father, who had an interest in agriculture for Jews, Lasker and other family members purchased farming land in Pennsylvania that allowed for the training of poor Jewish immigrants in agriculture. He also donated to Hadassah and other organizations. In 1950, he and his wife made a trip to Israel, which he described as the highlight of his life.
A renowned philanthropist, Lasker founded the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation with his wife in 1942, dedicated to the support of biomedical research for curing disease and improving human life. The foundation presents annual awards recognizing those who have made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, and prevention of human disease. The awards are considered to be among the most prestigious in medical science. In 1944, Lasker was the primary force behind a fundraising drive to increase the money spent on cancer research in the United States. He was also interested in federal involvement in medical issues, and was involved in efforts to create national health insurance and a national fund for medical education during the Truman administration.
Lasker died of cancer on May 30, 1952, in New York City.