Charles Moses Strauss, the First Jewish Mayor of Tucson in the Arizona Territory

Charles Moses Strauss

Mayor Charles Strauss of Tucson, #ws1272

Mayor Charles Strauss of Tucson,

Values Codes I-E-L-P


Charles Moses Strauss was born in 1840 in New York City. 

His parents were Nathan and Rachel (Adler) Strauss.

In 1851, the Strauss family moved to Boston, Massachusetts.

Charles Strauss graduated from Brimmer Grammar School in 1856.

Charles Strauss worked as a clerk for Converse, Harding and Company.

He worked briefly for an uncle’s firm in New York before returning to Boston, where he started his own business.

Charles Strauss is remembered by his family for his superlative business and financial skills.


Along the Way

In the 1860s, Charles Strauss moved to Memphis, Tennessee.  He worked for the largest dry goods firm in the area.

In 1870, Charles and Julia Strauss settled in Hingham, Massachusetts.



In 1880, the Strauss family moved to Tucson, Arizona due to Charles’ medical issues and the healthful climate of Arizona.

Upon his arrival, Charles Strauss became manager of Louis Zeckendorff & Company, a general merchandise firm.

Charles Strauss supervised the building of a new store in 1881, so that there were three locations.

He managed this firm from 1880-1883.


In the 1880s, Charles Strauss also invested in the John D. Long mine in Arizona.



In 1868, Charles Strauss became the secretary of  a group in Memphis who opposed General Ulysses S. Grant’s candidacy for president.

This opposition was due to Grant’s 1862 Order #11, which expelled all Jews from his military district (Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi) under suspicion of illegal trading.  He drafted resolutions that were published in Cincinnati.

During the 1870s, Charles Strauss became active in the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

He served as secretary of the Democratic Town Committee and secretary of the Democratic State Committee.  He ran for Secretary of State in 1891, but was not elected.


In 1883, Charles Strauss became the first Jewish Mayor of Tucson, Arizona.

As Mayor, Charles Strauss built the city hall, fire house and a city hospital.

He also started the first building and loan association.

He was instrumental in starting construction of the first public library in Arizona, the Carnegie Free Library of Tucson, which opened in 1901.

Charles Strauss resigned his position of Mayor in 1884.


In 1886, Charles Strauss accompanied General George Crook to a council with Apache Chief Geronimo.


Charles Strauss with Captain Cook & Chief Gernonimo at Treaty Council, #WS1270

Charles Strauss with Captain Cook & Chief Geronimo at Treaty Council,

Charles Strauss was a regent of the University of Arizona from 1886-1889.

He was instrumental in founding the University in 1887.

From 1887-1890, Charles Strauss served as Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Arizona Territory.


In 1891, Charles Strauss was elected unanimously to the position of Chief Clerk of the Territorial Senate or “Council.”



In Tennessee, Charles Strauss was an active member of the Memphis Club.  In 1866, in addition to his stage manager duties, he played Sir John Vesey in the club’s production of “Money” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  In 1867, he performed in the farce “Herr Brummer.”

Charles and Julia Strauss were active in Hingham Society.  Charles continued his acting, playing John Mildmay in “Still Waters Run Deep” in 1877.

Julia was a talented pianist who organized literary and musical programs.

Charles Strauss was a member of the Masonic Order in Hingham.

In Tucson, Charles Strauss became a 32nd degree Mason and helped found the Masonic Grand Lodge of Arizona.

He served terms as Grand Chaplain and Grand Lecturer.

Strauss was a member of Lodge No.4 F. & A.M.  He was the Master of Santa Rita Lodge of Perfection, No.1, A. & A. S. R. of Tucson.



Charles Strauss married Julia Kauffmann, in 1868, in Memphis, TN.

Rabbi Simon Tuska officiated at the wedding.

Mrs. Charles Strauss, #WS1274

Mrs. Charles Strauss,

Charles and Julia Strauss had 5 children: Rosalie, Gertrude), Mabel, Charles Moses Strauss, Jr.,) and Ruth.

Rosalie was born in Memphis, while Gertrude, Mabel and Charles, Jr. were born in Hingham, MA and Ruth was born in Arizona.  Rosalie died from diphtheria in 1875.

Gertrude married William Read (manager of L. Zeckendorff and Company in 1889.

Ruth Strauss was a volunteer firefighter (like her father) in Tucson in 1899.


Charles Moses Strauss died in 1892 of tuberculosis.

He was interred in the Evergreen Cemetery, in the Masonic section (Plot 17).

On the Monday of his funeral, public schools and some businesses remained closed to respect his memory.


For more information see the following article in Western States Jewish History

  • Strauss, Charles Moses; Mayor Strauss of Tucson; Arizona; Stern, Norton B.; 12/4

Samantha Silver is the Curator of this Charles Moses Struass Exhibit