Helen Miller left this photograph of Dr. Edgar Mayer, head of National Vaudeville Artist Lodge; actor Eddie Cantor; unknown (Al Jolson?); theatrical agent William Morris. Title page and frontispiece of The Curative Power of Light, 1932 Born:

Died: May, 1975

Married: Cecile Lehman Mayer


Dr. Edgar Mayer was the founding director of the National Vaudeville Artists Lodge. He came to Saranac Lake for his health in the 1910s. In 1918, he joined the staff of the Saranac Lake General Hospital. He was an advocate of heliotherapy. 1 In 1924, through his efforts, all tubercular patients in Saranac Lake who were members of National Vaudeville Artists were moved to the Northwoods Sanatorium at 9 Church Street.  Later to be moved to the National Vaudeville Artists Home.

He was Chairman of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board of Will Rogers Hospital. In later years he returned to New York City where he was clinical professor of industrial medicine, New York University Postgraduate Medical School and member of the Board of Chest Consultants, Workmen's Compensation Board of N. Y. State. 2

Bela Bartok was among his patients, as was Rosa Ponselle, generally considered by music critics to have been one of the greatest sopranos of the past 100 years.

From the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 19, 1975


It was most fitting that Governor Carey give his talk on "Health Education and Preventive Medicine" in the Montague Library of the Will Rogers hospital complex, and paid tribute to the late Dr. Edgar Mayer, who may well be called the father of the institution.

Governor Carey pointed out the government's shortcomings in the health care field, and stated that he hoped that "the creativity of the entertainment industry could be used to warn and advise people on how to improve their health. This has been the goal of the Will Rogers Hospital since it was merely the dream of a young physician, just starting his practice in the 1920s. The young physician, Dr. Edgar Mayer, whose practice consisted mostly of people in the entertainment industry who had come to Saranac Lake for their health, conceived of the idea of building a hospital to care for his 'show business' patients, and to teach good health practices, and develop research projects leading to the prevention of illness.

With the aid of his good friend, the late William Morris, Sr. — internationally known theatrical agent, who had a summer home on Lake Colby — and other members of the entertainment industry, his dream was no longer a 'castle in the air', but became the beautiful substantial structure which you see today, and which is equipped for the various activities of which he had dreamed.

When the financial crash occurred in 1929, the research phase and health plans of the hospital were delayed, so its function was limited to curative purposes. However, in the late 50s, with the help of funds from the entertainment industry, and an active and dedicated Board of Directors, research was again started. The establishment of the O'Donnell Memorial Research Laboratory in 1962 initiated research in respiratory diseases, which were responsible for an increasing morbidity rate, particularly emphysema. Research was also started in developing an effective vaccine against tuberculosis, still a scourge in undeveloped countries.

Dr. Mayer lived to see his vision come true— for he was Chairman of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board of Will Rogers Hospital till he died in May 1975.

Dr. Kevin Cahill, the Health Advisor to Governor Carey, carries on the tradition of Dr. Edgar Mayer. He has wholeheartedly advocated preventive measures, such as health education, vaccination, and fluoridation of public water supplies. As Governor Carey stressed, many illnesses can be more effectively and leas expensively controlled by preventive medicine than by the current attempts at palliation and cure. For instance, seventh grade teachers might do more to prevent future cases of cancer of the lung by teaching their charges the hazards of smoking than could be cured by all of the thoracic surgeons in the United States. And the fluoridation of New York City water has prevented more cavities than the 8,000 dentists there could care for. Yet a large population of this country is still being deprived of this simple public health measure!

Americans may be more interested in dramatic cures, but far more salutory to our health and welfare are the invisible forces of prevention, and is to these forces that a large portion of the medical art of tomorrow must be directed. We must now focus more on preventive medicine. Thus, it is appropriate that Hy Martin an executive of United Artists and the President of the Will Rogers Hospital, had pledged the resources and cooperation of the entertainment industry in a program of health education and preventive medicine.

Sincerely Morris Dworski, M.P.R. Saranac Lake


1. Malone Farmer, September 28, 1932
2. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 9, 1952