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Robert Wagner: A Featured Biography

Photo of Senator Robert Wagner of New York

Senator Robert Wagner of New York (1877-1953) authored sweeping legislation that dramatically changed the American social and economic landscape. As chairman of the New York Assembly State Factory Investigation Committee from 1911 to 1915, he had investigated the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and other industrial hazards. These experiences sharpened his commitment to reform. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1926, Wagner became chairman of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee during the New Deal era. Two of his most notable accomplishments were enacted into law in 1935--the Social Security Act provided old-age pensions to Americans, and the Wagner Labor Act guaranteed labor's right to organize and bargain collectively. "Whether you like his laws or deplore them," one journalist noted, "he has placed on the books legislation more important and far-reaching than any American in history since the days of the founding fathers." Senator Wagner was also a leading proponent of federal anti-lynching legislation. In 2000 the United States Senate bestowed a unique honor on Senator Robert Wagner, voting to add his portrait to a very select collection in the Senate Reception Room.

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