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Kellogg, Frank Billings (1856–1937)

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Frank B. Kellogg

Frank B. Kellogg, c.1931.

A trustbuster, senator, secretary of state, Nobel laureate, and World Court judge, Frank Kellogg rose from a small farm in Olmsted County to being the highest-ranking diplomat in the United States. He is remembered as one of the authors of the 1928 Pact of Paris, a multi-lateral treaty that renounced aggressive war as a matter of national policy.

Frank Billings Kellogg was born in Potsdam, New York, in 1856. In 1865, his family moved to a small farm in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Five years later, in 1870, his father's poor health forced Frank to take over the working of the farm. The responsibility of running the farm meant that he could no longer attend school, and this year marked the end of Kellogg's formal schooling. He continued his education when he could. When he was nineteen, he moved to Rochester to study law with a lawyer in the area. He supported himself during this time by working at farms near Rochester and running errands for the lawyer. All of his work paid off in 1877 when he was admitted to the Minnesota Bar.

Kellogg built his legal career using powerful connections and a willingness to immerse himself in corporate law. In his first major case, he represented two small communities who sought reimbursement from two railroad companies. Given the power of railroad companies at the time, Kellogg needed assistance to make the case against them. He turned to his distant cousin, Cushman Davis, a former governor of Minnesota, who helped him win. When Davis was elected to the Senate in 1887, he suggested that he, Kellogg, and Cordenio Severance form a partnership. Together, they built one of the most successful corporate law practices in the Midwest. James J. Hill and many other major corporate figures turned to them for advice.

Kellogg's legal career took a national turn a few years later when he began to challenge monopolistic practices of several national firms. In 1905, both the Pioneer Press and President Theodore Roosevelt asked him to investigate the Western Paper Trust to see if it violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Kellogg successfully argued that it did, and over the next decade, he played a role in breaking up the Union Pacific Railroad and the Standard Oil trusts. In the Standard Oil Case, he prosecuted the government's case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

After completing work on the anti-trust cases, Kellogg turned to Minnesota politics. In 1916, he was the first person elected to the Senate directly by the people of Minnesota-before the Seventeenth Amendment state legislatures elected Senators. He served six years in the Senate before the Farmer-Labor candidate, Henrik Shipstead, defeated him in 1922. The next year, President Calvin Coolidge named him Ambassador to England. Three years later, Coolidge appointed him Secretary of State. Kellogg would make his most lasting mark in this role.

As Secretary of State, Kellogg worked on U.S. policy towards Latin America, China, and Europe. In 1927, French Ambassador Aristide Briand approached him about a treaty renouncing war between the United States and France. Because he did not want to appear to be favoring France over other countries, Kellogg did not want to sign an agreement with France alone. He suggested that it be a multi-lateral treaty that renounced war. Kellogg was committed to an idea of human progress that pushed war to the background of international relations and national policy. Briand eventually conceded and the two worked together of the Pact of Paris, which was signed in 1928. Also known as the Kellogg-Briand treaty, the agreement, which was eventually accepted by over fifty nations, renounced aggressive war as national policy. While its effects have been debated, it still marked a change in international policies and influenced the United Nations Charter. For his work on the Pact, Kellogg was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

After his time as Secretary of State, Kellogg spent five years as a judge for the World Court in the Hague. He retired from the Court in 1935 due to ill health. Two years later, he died at his home in St. Paul.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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  • Related Resources

Bryn-Jones, David. Frank B. Kellogg: A Biography. New York: Putnam and Sons, 1937.

Cleaver, Charles G. "Frank B. Kellogg's View of History and Progress." Minnesota History 35, no. 4 (December 1956): 157–166.

Lindley, John M. "More About the Life and Times of Frank B. Kellogg." Ramsey County History 33, no. 4 (Winter 1999): 14.

Morgan, Samuel H. "Timber, Steel, Law, and Politics: St. Paul's Pioneering Attorneys and their More Interesting Cases." Ramsey County History 33, no. 4 (Winter 1999):4–13.

Related Images

Frank B. Kellogg
Frank B. Kellogg
Frank B. Kellogg posed by the ruins of his old home in Olmsted County
Frank B. Kellogg posed by the ruins of his old home in Olmsted County
Frank B. Kellogg being sworn in as Secretary of State, Washington, D.C.
Frank B. Kellogg being sworn in as Secretary of State, Washington, D.C.

Turning Point

In 1928, US Secretary of State Kellogg signs the Pact of Paris, a multilateral treaty that renounces war as an instrument of national policy.



Frank Kellogg is born in Potsdam, New York


His family moved to Minnesota to farm


Kellogg leaves formal schooling because he has to take over the farm


Kellogg moves to Rochester to study law at a law office.


He is admitted to the Minnesota Bar.


Kellogg is elected to be County Attorney in Olmsted County.


Kellogg joins a law firm with Cushman K. Davis and Cardenio Severance. This firm would become on of the most prominent and successful corporate firms in the Midwest.


Kellogg is appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as a special Assistant Attorney General to prosecute the government's case against the Western Paper Trust, earning him a reputation as a "trust-buster."


Kellogg is elected as U.S. Senator from the state of Minnesota. He is the first Minnesota Senator directly elected by the people of Minnesota.


President Calvin Coolidge appoints Kellogg as Ambassador to the Court of St. James


Kellogg is appointed Secretary of State for Coolidge


Kellogg and Aristide Briand work on the Pact of Paris, a multi-lateral treaty in which signatories outlawed wars of aggression as national policy. The two would win the Nobel Peace Prize the next year.


Kellogg is elected as a judge in the World Court, holding that position until 1935.


Kellogg died at his home in St. Paul.