Robert Wharton - The Fun-Loving Mayor of Revolutionary Philadelphia

Robert Wharton - The Fun-Loving Mayor of Revolutionary Philadelphia

Robert Wharton was indifferent to politics until he was elected Mayor of Philadelphia.

Despite his best efforts, Wharton kept getting reelected and is still Philly’s longest serving Mayor.

Robert Wharton

Robert Wharton was a fun-loving young man.

Although he worked in his brother Samuel’s merchant firm counting house, he was better known for his enjoyment of sports. Robert spent most of his free time fox hunting.

Later, Wharton would join the Schuylkill Fishing Company. This organization is still around and in fact is the oldest English-speaking social club in the world.


Robert Wharton does not seem to have had much interest in Revolution.

Actually, he seems to have enjoyed the sporting life to the point where he forgot there was a war going on.

That being said, Robert became a beloved leader in his community. This seems to stem from his disinterestedness in politics leading to his non-association with any party.

During the administration of President Washington, Wharton was chosen as an Alderman of Philadelphia.


The fun-loving Wharton did take his position seriously.

In his first year as Alderman, several sailors began to riot due to demands for higher wages. Robert was able to quell this riot and have the sailors arrested.

The following year, the newly constructed Walnut Street Prison Riots broke out. This was because of overcrowding in the jail (which was probably not helped by the arrest of the aforesaid sailors). Wharton was also able to quell this violence.


Just before the Walnut Street Prison Riots, Robert Wharton was elected as Mayor of Philadelphia.

Wharton severed for two terms before refusing to seek reelection. Six years later, Robert was again chosen as Mayor.

For twenty-five years Wharton would be elected Mayor, decline to seek the office, and get reelected anyway. Rinse, Repeat.

He qualifies as a Founder because his terms as Mayor of Philadelphia span the Presidencies of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe.

It should also be kept in mind that Philadelphia was the Capital of the United States for several of his years in office.

Robert Wharton still holds the record for most years spent as (and most terms elected to the office of) Mayor of Philadelphia.


Though this is a nice place to end, I need to add one more story about Robert Wharton.

During one of his breaks from being Mayor, Robert joined his local militia as a private (despite technically having been a Brigadier General as Mayor).

Wharton was serving with his comrades during the War of 1812 when, while he was taking his turn as cook, he was informed he was again elected as Mayor.

With a huff and a sigh, Robert resigned his post and disappointingly trudged back to resume the highest office in the city.

Do you want to read more about Fun Founders from Philly?


Try these articles on John Bill Rickets and Patience Wright.

Want to read a great book about fund during the colonial era?


‘Puritans at Play’ is technically earlier than the Founding, but there is no book I know of that covers the subject during the Revolution. I think you’ll enjoy it anyway. Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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