Charles Moses Strauss: 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.

He worked as a clerk for Converse, Harding and Co.

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 became manager of Louis Zeckendorff & Company, a general merchandise firm.

Strauss supervised the building of a new store in 1881, expanding the business to three locations.

He managed the firm from 1880 to 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.

His 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.Strauss drafted resolutions that were published in Cincinnati.

During the 1870s, 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, Strauss built the city hall, fire house and a city hospital. He also started the first building and loan association.

Strauss 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, #WS1270


Strauss was a regent of the University of Arizona from 1886 to 1889. He was instrumental in founding the University in 1887.

From 1887-1890, he 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.

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, #WS1274

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. Zeckendorf and Company) in 1889.

Ruth  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, local public schools and some businesses remained closed to respect his memory.



  • Norton B. Stern, “Mayor Strauss of Tucson,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 12/4.

Samantha Silver is the curator of this Charles Moses Strauss exhibit.