Robert F. Wagner, U.S. Senator

Is your surname Wagner?

Research the Wagner family

Robert F. Wagner, U.S. Senator's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Robert Ferdinand Wagner, I

Birthplace: Nastätten, Hesse-Nassau , Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Death: May 04, 1953 (75)
New York, New York, NY, United States
Place of Burial: Queens, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Reinhardt Wagner
Husband of Margaret Cecilia Wagner
Father of Robert F. Wagner, Jr., Mayor of New York City
Brother of Clara Jenkins; Frieda Diettrich; Helen Brenner and August Wagner

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Robert F. Wagner, U.S. Senator

Robert Ferdinand Wagner I (June 8, 1877 – May 4, 1953) was an American politician. He was a Democratic U.S. Senator from New York from 1927 to 1949.

Origin and early life

He was born in Nastätten, then in the Province Hesse-Nassau, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire (now in Rhein-Lahn-Kreis, Rhineland-Palatinate, Federal Republic of Germany) and immigrated with his parents to the United States in 1885. His family settled in New York City and Wagner attended the public schools. He graduated from the College of the City of New York (now named City College) in 1898 where he was a brother of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and from New York Law School in 1900. He was admitted to the bar in 1900.

Political career

He was a member of the New York State Assembly from 1905 to 1908, and of the New York State Senate from 1909 to 1918. He was President pro tempore of the New York State Senate from 1911 to 1914, and became Acting Lieutenant Governor of New York after the impeachment of Governor William Sulzer, and the succession of Lt. Gov. Martin H. Glynn to the governorship. In 1914, while Wagner remained President pro tem, John F. Murtaugh was chosen Majority Leader of the State Senate, the only time before 2009 that the two offices were not held by the same person. In January 1915, following the loss of the Senate majority by the Democrats, Wagner became Minority Leader until his retirement in 1918. Also, during his time in the State Senate, he served as Chairman of the State Factory Investigating Committee (1911–1915). Wagner was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Conventions of 1915 and 1938, and a justice of the New York Supreme Court from 1919 to 1926.

U.S. Senate

Wagner was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1926, and reelected in 1932, 1938 and 1944. He resigned on June 28, 1949, due to ill health. He was unable to attend any sessions of the 80th or 81st Congress from 1947 to 1949 because of a heart ailment.[2] Wagner was Chairman of the Committee on Patents in the 73rd Congress, of the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys in the 73rd and 74th Congresses, and of the Committee on Banking and Currency in the 75th through 79th Congresses. He was a delegate to the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in 1944.

Wagner, who had known the future President when they were in the New York state legislature together, was a member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Brain Trust. He was very involved in labor issues, fought for legal protection and rights for workers, and was a leader in crafting the New Deal.

His most important legislative achievements include the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933 and the Wagner-Steagall Housing Act‎ of 1937. After the Supreme Court ruled the National Industrial Recovery Act and the National Recovery Administration unconstitutional, Wagner helped pass the National Labor Relations Act (also known as the Wagner Act) in 1935,[3] a similar but much more expansive bill. The National Labor Relations Act, perhaps Wagner's greatest achievement, was a seminal event in the history of organized labor in the United States. It created the National Labor Relations Board, which mediated disputes between unions and corporations, and greatly expanded the rights of workers by banning many "unfair labor practices" and guaranteeing all workers the right to form a union. He also introduced the Railway Pension Law, and cosponsored the Wagner-O'Day Act, the predecessor to the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act.

Wagner was instrumental in writing the Social Security Act, and originally introduced it in the United States Senate.

The Wagner-Hatfield amendment to the Communications Act of 1934, aimed at turning over twenty-five percent of all radio channels to non-profit radio broadcasters, did not pass. He also co-sponsored with Rep. Edith Rogers (R-Mass.) the Wagner-Rogers Bill to admit 20,000 Jewish refugees under the age of 14 to the United States from Nazi Germany, but the bill was rejected by the United States Congress in February 1939.

Wagner and Edward P. Costigan sponsored a federal anti-Lynching law. In 1935 attempts were made to persuade President Franklin D. Roosevelt to support the Costigan-Wagner Bill. However, Roosevelt refused to support the bill, not wanting to alienate Southern Democrats in Congress and lose their support for New Deal programs. There were 18 lynchings of blacks in the South in 1935, but after the threat of federal legislation the number fell to eight in 1936, and to two in 1939.

On June 28, 1949, Wagner resigned from the U.S. Senate, due to ill health; John Foster Dulles was appointed by Governor Thomas E. Dewey on July 7, 1949, to temporarily fill the vacancy.

Death and legacy

He died in New York City, and is interred in Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York City.

His son, Robert F. Wagner, Jr., was Mayor of New York City from 1954 to 1965.

On September 14, 2004, a portrait of Wagner, along with one of Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, was unveiled in the Senate Reception Room. The new portraits joined a group of distinguished former Senators, including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Robert M. La Follette, Sr., and Robert A. Taft. Portraits of this group of Senators, known as the "Famous Five", were unveiled on March 12, 1959.

The public middle school located at 220 east 76th Street in New York City is named after him.

view all

Robert F. Wagner, U.S. Senator's Timeline

June 8, 1877
Nastätten, Hesse-Nassau , Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
April 20, 1910
Manhattan, New York, New York County, New York, United States
May 4, 1953
Age 75
New York, New York, NY, United States
Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York, United States