Prominent businessman and civic reformer Rudolph Blankenburg (1843-1918) denounced the profiteering surrounding the Boulevard’s construction as political “effrontery and thievery.” Born in Germany, Blankenburg immigrated to the United States in 1865 and soon settled in Philadelphia, where he worked in importing and manufacturing. He and his wife, Lucretia, both became involved in civic causes.
A Republican, Blankenburg nonetheless opposed the Republican Party “Organization” that dominated the city and state during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His activism on behalf of good government led to his election as mayor for one term, 1912-16, an achievement the New York Times described as “one of the greatest reform campaigns ever fought in this country.” He reformed city financial management, established civil service by merit, and stopped ward leaders from collecting assessments from police and elected officials. In a departure from road projects like the Boulevard, Blankenburg advocated public transportation initiatives such as the Broad Street Subway. While serving only one term, he earned a reputation as the “Old War Horse of Reform.”