Star of Bethlehem John Bernard Eberhard Freytag (Freitag) M.D. (20 April 1764 – 14 March 1846) was a pioneer homeopath and pharmacist from the very early days of American homeopathy, practicing in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In 1834 he became one of the original members of the Northampton County Homeopathic Society. Freytag was a faculty member of the original Allentown Homeopathic Academy, and he was a charter member of the American Institute of Homeopathy.

John Eberhard Freytag was born at Halberstadt, Germany. He studied medicine at the Moravian Barby Theological Seminary and the University of Halle, Germany, and at the Synod of 1789 was called to America. He came to Bethlehem in 1790 and for 56 years was a practicing physician of this town. He was thrice married; first to Cath. Jacobson, who died in 1796, next to Christine Oliver, who died in 1818, and lastly to Salome Fetter of Salem, N.C.

Sometime in the mid-1820’s, William Wesselhoeft and Henry Detweiller became close personal friends and began a series of-informal medical meetings.

One of their meeting places was the Moravian Pharmacy at 420 Main Street in Bethlehem. The pharmacist-physician in Bethlehem at that time was Dr. John Eberhard Freytag (1764-1846), also a German immigrant with a background similar to those of William Wesselhoeft and Henry Detweiller.

Freytag had been a respected apothecary and lay physician in the Moravian community for many years and had even written a popular treatise on veterinary medicine entitled Der Deutsche Pferde-Arzt.

Soon after the commencement of the meetings, Freytag abandoned traditional practice and became a homeopath.

On May 27, 1835 the cornerstone was laid for the main building of the Academy in a festive ceremony featuring an inaugural address by Dr. Constantine Hering himself.

Two three-story wings of the main building were erected south of Hamilton Street and east of Fourth Street in Allentown; a second building somewhat remote from these was planned to house the chemical laboratory and anatomical and dissecting rooms.

The Pennsylvania State Legislature granted the institution a charter of incorporation on June 16, 1836. Instruction commenced immediately thereafter. The faculty consisted of Drs. Constantine Hering, William Wesselhoeft, Henry Detweiller, John Eberhard Freytag, John Romig and Joseph Hyppolyte Pulte….

The Academy itself did not last long beyond its journal. The medical school had deposited its funds in an Allentown bank which folded in the financial panic of the late 1830’s. Formal instruction terminated in 1839 and although numerous attempts were made to re-fund the institution, a terminal board meeting was convened on June 14, 1843.

The termination at this point was merely a formality, as the school had ceased operations four years earlier. The four key physicians and their mentor had long since moved on: Constantine Hering to private practice in Philadelphia, William Wesselhoeft to Boston, and Freytag, Henry Detweiller and John Romig to private practices in Bethlehem, Hellertown and Allentown, respectively.

In 1883, The American Observer Medical Monthly reported that John Eberhard Freytag conducted the first provings of Apocynum, and he also conducted a proving of Kalmia on a man named Kummer, and many other remedies including crocus.

John Eberhard Freytag was recorded as a homeopathic pharmacist in Pharmacopoeia homoeopathica in 1834, and he wrote many articles for homeopathic journals, which were reported in The British Journal of Homoeopathy in 1860.

He died in March 1846 and was buried in God’s Acre Moravian cemetery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Freytag’s death was the first presented to the American Institute of Homeopathy.

Of interest:

Auguste C. Freitag (no evident relation) read an article on Homeopathic Pharmacy reported in The Clinique: A Monthly Abstract of the Clinics and of the Proceedings… by the Hahnemann Hospital of the City of Chicago, Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital in 1880.

*T. Engelbach founder of the Homeopathic Pharmacy, New Orleans, announces that he has transferred his entire business to Mr. August C. Freitag reported in the American Homoeopathist in 1879.