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.
Al Smith grew up with his family struggling financially in the Gilded Age; New York City matured and completed major infrastructure projects. "The Brooklyn Bridge and I grew up together," Smith would later recall.
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.
He served as vice chairman of the state commission appointed to investigate factory conditions after 146 workers died in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
Meeting the families of the deceased Triangle factory workers left a strong impression on him.
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.
but Smith identified with the Irish-American community and became its leading spokesman in the 1920s.
His father Alfred owned a small trucking firm, but died when the boy was 13. James parochial school to help support the family, and worked at a fish market for seven years.
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.