Published on .

GREENWICH, Conn.-Mary Lasker, widow of Albert D. Lasker, the legendary adman who headed Lord & Thomas for 40 years, and for more than 50 years herself a leading philanthropist, art collector, and lobbyist for urban beautification, died Feb. 21 of heart failure at her home here. She was 93.

After establishing the Albert & Mary Lasker Foundation in 1942 with her husband, Mrs. Lasker presided over the Albert Lasker Awards, rewarding outstanding clinical and medical researchers. Her beautification efforts once led urban developer Robert Moses to liken her to the "Madison Avenue dream," a "blend of many essences in the beautiful package."

His reference to Madison Avenue was apt, inasmuch as the bulk of Mrs. Lasker's wealth derived from her husband's phenomenal success in ushering the advertising industry into the era of mass selling.

Mr. Lasker, born in Galveston, Texas, joined Lord & Thomas in 1898 as an 18-year-old $10-a-week floor and cuspidor cleaner and worked his way into sales-meaning "new business." By 1908, "the boy wonder," as Mr. Lasker was known, owned the place.

The agency's billings in those 10 years climbed to $12 million from $800,000. Mr. Lasker's success was founded on his zeal for "reason why" copywriters, advocates of "salesmanship in print," such as the legendary John E. Kennedy and Claude C. Hopkins.

By December 1942, Mr. Lasker had had enough, and after selling Lord & Thomas to three of his young managers-Emerson Foote, Fairfax Cone and Don Belding-and stipulating that they rename the shop Foote, Cone & Belding, he retired.

Mrs. Lasker, together with her husband, whom she had married in 1940, thereafter devoted herself to the newly established Lasker Foundation. After his death in 1952, she created the Albert Lasker Awards. A Radcliffe College graduate, Mrs. Lasker-born Mary Woodard in Watertown, Wis.-worked at Manhattan art galleries before her marriage to Mr. Lasker.

Most Popular
In this article: