Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 67

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 67


This is the grave of Robert Wagner.

2016-05-29 12.22.13

Born in Prussia in 1877, Robert Wagner immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1885. Settling in New York, Wagner proved himself a rapidly rising star in Democratic Party politics from a young age. Graduating from City College in 1898 and New York Law School in 1900, he entered the state legislature in 1905 and then the state senate in 1909. Wagner became involved in reform causes to help the working class early in his career. He played a critical role in the commission formed after the Triangle Fire that led New York to pass pioneering legislation on workplace and building safety. He also worked to turn Tammany Hall away from its old corrupt past and into an organization that legitimately represented working Americans. In doing so, he was part of a larger movement remaking the northern wing of the Democratic Party in these years, a critical move in the coming New Deal.

Wagner was elected to the Senate in 1926. A close ally of his old friend Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Wagner would become the greatest friend the American labor movement ever had in the Senate. Most importantly was the National Labor Relations Act, commonly known as the Wagner Act, that provided the critical framework of labor law that gave workers real rights in the United States for the first time in American history. He also shepherded the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and the Wagner-Stegall Housing Act of 1937 through the Senate. In addition, he helped write the Social Security Act and introduced it to the Senate. He sponsored anti-lynching legislation that could never pass because of southern domination of the Democratic Party, but nonetheless was the right thing to do.

Wagner resigned from the Senate due to poor health in 1949 and died in 1953.

Robert Wagner is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York

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  • mikeSchilling

    I had no idea he was dead.

    Anyway, Natalie Wood and Jill St. John? That was one great life.

    • osceola

      Damn you, mike. You beat me to it by minutes.

      Though being buried next to Natalie might be a little tacky, given the circumstances.

    • BGinCHI

      Hart To Hart. Just sayin.

  • prufrock

    Eric, it’s refreshing when you do a grave post on a good guy, instead of one of the malignant assholes that normally are the subject of the series.

    It’s like an Everybody lives! episode of Doctor Who.

  • tnapoles

    Wow Calvary, how many graves did you see there? Do they have a fake site for Vito Corleone?

    • Not too may actually. I already wrote about Al Smith, who is buried right next to Wagner, one of many random famous people buried next to each other, although in this case it may be intentional. The main thing I remember is spending 20 minutes trying and failing to find the grave of Wee Willie Keeler.

      • mikeSchilling

        Plant ’em where they ain’t.

  • petemack

    Ya know, I never thought I’d ever miss John Woo as a counselor to the President. But compared to Kellyanne Conway, he’s a paragon of jurisprudence. My God. What a horrible, horrible person. “No one cares” if Trump releases his tax returns. “Alternative facts.” And that’s before her first full businesses day at work. An absolute legal whore.

    • DocAmazing

      I think you mean John Yoo. If John Woo had been counselor to Li’l George Bush, he’d have had a shoot-out with Jeb! as a flock of doves was released.

    • vic rattlehead

      Alt-interrogation techniques.

  • Yankee

    He also worked to turn Tammany Hall away from its old corrupt past and into an organization that legitimately represented working Americans.

    That surely does sound like a relevant precedent. Is there a book-length review of how that went exactly?

    • Not that I have read, but that doesn’t really mean too much.

    • sigaba

      Did the New Dealers really reform Tammany Hall, or didn’t they just supplant it and make it irrelevant?

  • No Longer Middle Aged Man

    Generally known as Robert F. Wagner. He was one of my father’s (born 1912) favorites, in the tier below St Adlai and FDR. Pops wasn’t so keen on the son, referring to him as Bookie Bob.

    • Mark Centz

      Grandson III helped Rudy911 against Dinkins. What is it with with NY political families?

  • Unlearner

    Sen. Wagner probably made the best contribution to housing policy of any American elected official, and his bio still sounds impressive if you don’t mention housing.

  • JonH

    Should have left an Eveready battery on the stone just to confuse people.

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