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The history of Arizona's physicians is rich in mystery, controversy, innovation and pride. Since the settlers first inhabited the territory, physicians have been a part of Arizona's legacy. They helped shape the culture of this Great State and set the standard for the quality of care delivered to its citizens. The Physicians of Interest page on this website highlights the historical work of Arizona's physicians and the roles they played while shaping the State's future. The biography of a new physician will be added each month and in time, the page will represent a patchwork of the names and faces that brought medicine in Arizona to life.

Charles Hermann Meyer

A man of many talents who died the year Arizona began licensing physicians, Mr. Meyer is a prime example of how medicine on the American frontier was practiced - and how those practitioners changed over time.

Born in Hanover, Germany, June 6, 1829, Meyer earned a degree as a chemist and apothecary from Heidelberg University in 1846. He came to the United States from Cuba, moving through Charleston, South Carolina and New Orleans before opening a drug store in Rio Grande, Texas in 1854. After Mexican raiders burned his drug store, Meyer joined a cattle drive headed to California. He got as far as Yuma.

The US Army was spread thinly across the areas recently won in the Mexican War. Its standards for commissions for physicians were stringent, so stringent in fact that the Army contracted with all sorts of people.

Charles Meyer contracted at least twice with the Army as an assistant physician and surgeon. He also quickly located in Tucson. By 1858 he opened the first drug store in what would become Arizona. The store was called "La Botica," and Meyer prescribed and sold drugs. He was probably referred to as "doctor" although he is not as widely known as such (at least compared to other druggists cum physicians like Dr. S.B. Chapin and Dr. O.J. Thibido).

Physicians actually trained in medicine started arriving in Tucson by the end of the Civil War, and Meyer stepped aside from Medicine. His reputation for learning, as well as his personal integrity, made him a logical choice for voters considering candidates for Justice of the Peace. It is said his is law reference books were actually two medical books, both in German.

For 35 years Meyer stayed on the bench, presiding over many legal tiffs, including one in which he had to fine himself "$25 or 25 days in jail" for speeding. One locally famous case, involving medicine, came before him in 1884. The first Arizona Medical Practice Act required medical diplomas to be registered at the county courthouse. Henri Narcissus Crepin, MD had dutifully registered his, but a medical competitor filed a complaint - stating that Crepin was practicing illegally because his diploma was not from an American medical school. Meyer spent little time in finding Crepin, a graduate of the Ecole de Medicine in Paris and perhaps the best trained physician in Arizona, innocent of the charge.

Meyer liked the law and gave his drug store to a pharmacist who was also his son-in-law. He bought the lot next door, then turned it into a public thoroughfare. This became Meyer Avenue, still a road in downtown Tucson.

Charlie Meyer died in Tucson at the age of 73.

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