Charles T. Mohr (1824-1901) was a chemist, pharmacist, pharmaceutical manufacturer, botanist, and geologist. A German immigrant, Mohr established successful businesses in Alabama and provided pharmaceutical expertise and research to the Confederate government. His Plant Life of Alabama (1901) stands as one of the most comprehensive works on Alabama plant life, and, along with his other writings, greatly enhanced knowledge of the state's natural resources.
Charles T. Mohr was born in Esslingen, Württemberg, Germany, on December 28, 1824, to Louis M. and Dorothea Mohr. He studied chemistry, pharmacy, and mineralogy at the polytechnic school in Stuttgart, and after his graduation in 1845, he joined German entrepreneur August Kappler on a trip to Dutch Guiana (now the independent nation of Suriname) to collect botanical specimens, an interest that would continue throughout his life. Like many of his German colleagues in the sciences, Mohr left Germany during the revolution of 1848 to seek his fortune in the social and political stability of the United States. He settled for a time in Cincinnati, a large German enclave, and obtained a position as a chemist. Following an unsuccessful venture to California during the gold rush of 1849, he returned east to Louisville in 1852, married Sophia Rhoemer on March 12 of that year, and became a pharmacist. He and Sophia had five children: Julia Dorothea, Charles A., Herman B., August S., and Pauline Mohr.
In 1857 the family moved to Mobile, Mobile County, where Mohr established a successful pharmacy and a modest but prosperous business producing drugs and perfumes. During the Civil War Mohr operated an important laboratory producing medicines and supply table materials for the Confederate government and inspected imported drug supplies destined for the Confederate medical corps. After the war Mohr continued his botanical interests, publishing nearly 100 articles on the subject. Since most of the medicines used by physicians in the nineteenth century were botanical in nature, it was an appropriate and complementary pursuit that also enhanced his pharmacy career. His Medicinal Plants of Alabama, published in May 1890 of the Proceedings of the Alabama Pharmaceutical Association, remains one of the most complete treatments of the topic. That same year Mohr was appointed a member of the important United States Pharmacopoeia committee of revision, which was responsible for establishing the official medicines of the United States.
In addition to his work in the field of pharmacy, Mohr also made significant contributions to Alabama botany and the natural history of the South. His extensive treatise, Plant Life of Alabama, written in Mobile is considered his single most important work and is one of the most complete compendia on botany in the state. Mohr's reports for the state on the forests and geology (including mineral resources) of Alabama are considered foundational sources on the natural resources of the region. His extensive collections are on permanent loan to the University of Alabama Herbarium.
Described by Dr. Eugene A. Smith, his longtime collaborator on the Geological Survey of Alabama, as "the most lovable and unselfish of men," Mohr's failing
health sent him to Asheville, North Carolina, where he spent the final months of his life working at the Biltmore Herbarium.
He died in Ashville on July 17, 1901. The University of North Carolina offers an herbarium internship fund that bears his
Mohr, Charles T. Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934.
———. The National Cyclopedia. New York: James T. White, 1937.
———. The Mountain Flora of Alabama. (Arnold Arboretum, October 26, 1892).
———. "The Medicinal Plants of Alabama," Proceedings of the Alabama Pharmaceutical Association 9 (May 13-15, 1890): 45-61.
———. Plant Life of Alabama. Montgomery, Ala.: Brown Printing Co., 1901.
Michael A. Flannery
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Published July 16, 2007
Last updated April 25, 2013