Rudolph Blankenburg (director) 1888-1898
Mayor of Philadelphia
In 1911, Rudolph “Old Dutch Cleanser” Blankenburg became Philadelphia’s 164th mayor and first progressive after a long reign by corrupt, machine politicians. Blankenburg, a German-born dry-goods manufacturer and merchant, had been active in local affairs since 1880 and was affectionately known as “Old Dutch Cleanser” because of his origins and zealous dedication to progressive reform politics, which he steadfastly adhered to throughout his 4 years in City Hall.
During his stay in office, he replaced the political cronies appointed by conservative Republican predecessors like John Reyburn with trained professionals, instituted a modern civil service system with on-the-job training and standardized employee benefits, and systematized city contracts among many other efficiency boosting efforts. Throughout his tenure, though, he was vehemently opposed by conservatives who made every attempt to block his efforts, branding them as “socialist.” Even after he left office many of his appointees and most fervent supporters lost their jobs, were defrocked or outcast socially by conservative society; but many of his policies stuck, dealing a serious blow to the machine politics that had been rampant in Philadelphia.
His wife, Lucretia Longshore Blankenburg, was a prominent womens suffragist, a militant Quaker and an important reform activist as well.