Meyer was born near Hamelin, Germany. As a cabinetmaker in his native Germany, Meyer had a father and uncles who were also cabinetmakers. He became involved in the Arts and Crafts movement before emigrating, first to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the turn of the twentieth century.
Meyer was then hired as art supervisor for the Stockton public schools in California. In 1900, Meyer hired Rice as assistant art supervisor, and Rice also relocated to Stockton, California. Meyer moved to San Francisco in 1902, and Rice was promoted to Meyer's job.
In San Francisco, Meyer established a cabinet shop and taught at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art on Nob Hill prior to the 1906 earthquake. He was also a faculty member of San Francisco Art Association and the California School of Design.
Founding of his arts and crafts school
After that institution was destroyed in the fire caused by the 1906 earthquake, Meyer expressed his dream of a school that would fuse the practical and ideal goals of the artist at a meeting of the Arts and Crafts Society shortly after the disaster. Meyer founded the California Guild of Arts and Crafts in 1907 in Oakland. He had $45.00 in cash, access to three classrooms and 42 students at the beginning. In 1936 the school was renamed the California College of Arts and Crafts, with Meyer as its first president, a position he held until his retirement in 1944.
Now named the California College of the Arts, the school provides an education for artists and designers that integrates both theory and practice in the arts. Meyer's vision continues to the present day. Today, Frederick Meyer's "practical art school" is an internationally known and respected institution, drawing students from throughout the world.