Childhood & Early Life
Frank Billings Kellogg was born on December 22, 1856, in Potsdam, New York, as the eldest son of Asa Farnsworth and Abigail Kellogg. Apart from Frank, the couple had a daughter named Jean and two sons, named Philip and Frederick. In addition to these three siblings, Frank had a half brother from Abigail’s first marriage.
In 1857, the family relocated to Long Lake, New York. Frank started his education in a local school there. In 1865, they moved westwards and settled at Viola in Olmsted County, Minnesota. There they acquired a wheat farm.
In Minnesota, Frank was enrolled at the county school at the age of nine and studied there till he was fourteen. Because of his father’s ill health, he could not finish his education. Instead in 1870, he took charge of his father’s farm. Later in 1872 they relocated to Elgin in the same county.
In 1875, Frank left the farm and joined Halftan A. Eckhold, a law farm in Rochester. He supported himself by running errands and working as a helper to a Rochester farmer. In his spare time, he studied law, history, Latin and German by borrowing textbooks from friends and acquaintances.
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Frank passed the state bar examination, in 1877, and started practicing in Rochester. From 1878 to 1881, he acted as the City Attorney of Rochester and then from 1882 to 1887, he was the County Attorney for Olmsted County, Minnesota.
While he was working as the County Attorney, Frank caught the attention of Cushman Kellogg Davis, who owned a law firm in St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota. He was also Frank’s cousin and recognizing his intelligence, skill and doggedness, invited Frank to join his firm.
In 1887, Frank B. Kellogg joined his cousin in establishing ‘Davis, Kellogg, and Severance’. With Frank Kellogg acting as its head, the company soon made a name and became a prominent corporate law firm within a very short span.
In 1901, with the death of Davis, Frank Kellogg became the senior partner of the firm. Their clients included railroad and iron mining companies, steel manufacturing firms etc. Consequently, Frank B. Kellogg not only made a substantial fortune, but also befriended famous personalities like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and James J. Hill.
In 1904, Kellogg became a member of National Committee of Republican Party. This was also the year when he became U.S. delegate to the Universal Congress of Lawyers and Jurists, held in St. Louis, Missouri and a delegate for the party’s national conventions held in 1904, 1908 and 1912.
Also in1904, Frank Kellogg pointed out in an interview that the General Paper Company, a business trust, was taking undue advantages. President Roosevelt asked him to take up the case as a special attorney of the US government. Kellogg took up the case in 1905 and won a decisive victory.
Next year, in 1906, Kellogg was appointed as a special counsel in the Interstate Commerce Commission for its probe into the affairs of E. H. Harriman, who owned Union Pacific Railroad. In 1908, Kellogg led the prosecution against the company and won another crucial victory. Very soon he began to be known as trustbuster across the country.
Next in 1911, he led the prosecution against Standard Oil Company, owned by John D. Rockefeller, and won. The Supreme Court ruled that the company was an illegal monopoly. This was by far the most important victory for him. Later he was elected as the president of American Bar Association (1912-1913).
In 1916, Kellogg was elected to the United States Senate as a Republican candidate from Minnesota. He served for three consecutive sessions from March 4, 1917 to March 4, 1923, but lost the 1922 reelection bid due to poor campaign.
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During his six years in Senate, Kellogg supported agricultural bills and tried to find a balance between governmental control over economy and laissez-faire, which promoted free market capitalism. Although he had some reservation about the Covenant of the League of Nations, when it came up for ratification, he supported it.
He also worked hard to get the Treaty of Versailles ratified. The proposal was brought by Democratic President Woodrow Wilson; but the Republicans were in majority in Senate and therefore, a tough fight followed. Kellogg was one of the few Republicans who supported the treaty.
In 1923, Kellogg represented United States in the Fifth International Conference of American States, held from March 25 to May 3 in Santiago, Chili. Sixteen countries took part in this Pan American conference and signed a treaty that proscribed use of armed forces against one another even in worst cases of disputes.
Later in the same year, Kellogg was sent to Great Britain as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and served in that capacity for fourteen months. His contribution in the London Reparations Conference, convened to accept the Dawes Plan, earned him sincere acclaim.
In 1925 Kellogg went back to the United States and succeeded Charles Evans Hughes as Secretary of State in President Coolidge's cabinet. He improved the United State’s relationship with Mexico and solved critical problems like land expropriation and oil by legal means rather by using military force.
He also improved United State’s relationship with the Caribbean countries as well as most South American countries including Nicaragua. The long standing problems between Peru and Chile regarding the Tecna and Arica provinces were also resolved because of his intervention.
Kellogg also engaged with China, with whom the relationship had deteriorated because of multiple reasons. Although he generally followed a policy of isolation regarding Europe he helped to arrange an international conference in Geneva in 1927 in a bid to limit naval armament.
During his tenure as the Secretary of State, Kellogg signed eighty treaties; some of which were multinational while rests were bilateral. The Kellogg-Briand Treaty was most important of them.
Kellogg’s tenure as Secretary of State ended in 1929. He then went back to St. Paul and rejoined his old law firm. In 1930, he was appointed as the Associate Judge at the Permanent Court of Justice, which was an international court attached to the League of Nations and served in that capacity till 1935.
Personal Life & Legacy
Frank B. Kellogg married Clara May cook on June 16, 1886. She too came from Rochester. The couple did not have any children.
Although Kellogg was appointed as the Associate Judge at the Permanent Court of Justice for nine years, he had to retire in 1935 because of ill health. He then went back to St. Paul to spend his retired life.
He died of pneumonia on December 21, 1937, in St. Paul, Minnesota, on the eve of his 81st birthday.
His house became a “National Historic Landmark’ in 1976. The Liberty ship, the SS Frank B. Kellogg, was named in his honor. Besides he has boulevard in downtown St. Paul and a number of middle and high schools named after him.