Kellogg was born on a farm in the state of New York. He was self-educated and passed the state bar exam to become an attorney in 1877. His cousin, one of the first lawyers in St. Paul, was among the first people to recognize Kellogg’s talent and skill and employed him in his law firm. Over 20 years, Kellogg accumulated substantial wealth: he worked as a counsel for railroad companies, iron mining companies and a steel plant in Minnesota.
Although his friends included the greatest businessmen of his time, such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and James J. Hill, he became famous as the “trust buster”. Among his other achievements, he won a legal battle against John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil Company.
He was a Republican senator from 1917-1923 and worked to obtain senatorial ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and of the Covenant of the League of Nations. As secretary of state (1925-1929), Kellogg directed South American policy (described as “retreat from imperialism”), the policy toward China (described as “goodwill policy”) and toward Europe (generally speaking, one of isolationism). A believer in the efficacy of international arbitration, Kellogg arranged for the signing of bilateral treaties with 19 countries. The Kellogg-Briand pact signed in August 1928 and proclaimed in July 1929 was the most important of these pacts.
He was a member of the Permanent Court of International Justice in the Hague (1930-1935).