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Smith was first elected to the New York State Assembly (New York Co., 2nd D.) in 1904, and repeatedly elected to office, serving through 1915.After being approached by Frances Perkins, an activist to improve labor practices, Smith sought to improve the conditions of factory workers.Although indebted to the Tammany Hall political machine, particularly to its boss, "Silent" Charlie Murphy, he remained untarnished by corruption and worked for the passage of progressive legislation.Smith's first political job was in 1895 as an investigator in the office of the Commissioner of Jurors as appointed by Tammany Hall.New laws mandated better building access and egress, fireproofing requirements, the availability of fire extinguishers, the installation of alarm systems and automatic sprinklers, better eating and toilet facilities for workers, and limited the number of hours that women and children could work.In the years from 1911 to 1913, sixty of the sixty-four new laws recommended by the Commission were legislated with the support of Governor William Sulzer.In 1911, the Democrats obtained a majority of seats in the State Assembly; and Smith became Majority Leader and Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means.In 1912, following the loss of the majority, he became the Minority Leader.
Roosevelt, his former ally and successor as Governor of New York.Most importantly, this was a time of national prosperity under a Republican White House.Smith lost in a landslide to Republican Herbert Hoover, who gained electoral support from six southern states.Together with Perkins, Smith crusaded against dangerous and unhealthy workplace conditions and championed corrective legislation.The Commission was chaired by State Senator Robert F. They held a series of widely publicized investigations around the state, interviewing 222 witnesses and taking 3500 pages of testimony.
Smith entered business in New York City and became an increasingly vocal opponent of Roosevelt's New Deal. He served with the 11th New York Fire Zouaves in the opening months of the Civil War.