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Emil Frey (Emil Johann Rudolf Frey )

Emil Frey was a Swiss politician, soldier in the American Civil War and member of the Swiss Federal Council (1890–1897). Frey later emigrated to the USA arriving in Belleville, Illinois an area with many Forty-Eighters, veterans of the 1848 revolutions in Europe.


Emil Johann Rudolf Frey was the son of Emil Remigius Frey, a liberal separatist politician.


he studied in the district schools in Therwil and Waldenburg, then the Pädagogium in Basel and the boys' school in Ulm. Since he was often in conflicts with teachers and school authorities, he didn't received matriculation certificate.

he entered Agricultural Institute of the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena in 1855 and began a study of agricultural science. This he finished in 1860, after several interruptions without a degree.During his study he worked on Saxon manors and on his father's farm in Solothurn. In December 1860 he moved to the United States.


Frey entered the unionist 24th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a private. Hecker was his commander, and they became friends again, with Frey sharing a tent with Hecker's son. Frey was later promoted to First lieutenant but resigned on 17 June 1862. He began raising a company for the Second Hecker Regiment (The 82nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment) and became the company's captain. Captain Frey was taken prisoner at the battle of Gettysburg on 1 July 1863 and held in Libby Prison for eighteen months before being exchanged for Captain Gordon, a Confederate prisoner under sentence of death.

In 1872, Frey was elected to the Swiss National Council, council he presided in 1875/1876.

From 1882 to 1888, Frey was the first ambassador (Minister) of Switzerland to the United States in Washington.

He was elected to the Federal Council of Switzerland on 11 December 1890 and handed over office on 31 March 1897. He was affiliated to the Free Democratic Party. During his office time he held the Military Department.

He was President of the Confederation in 1894.

From 1897 to 1921, Frey was director of the International Telegraph Union.


he was among the leaders of the democratic movement and campaigned for the expansion of the rights of the people and a centralized state.


  • Other Interests



Emil Remigius Frey - Swiss - lawyer and politician

Frey's family provided refuge for Friedrich Hecker when he fled the repression following the revolution in Germany in 1848.

1-st wife:
Emma Kloss - Swiss

In 1870 he married Emma Kloss, she gave birth to five children(Hans (1871-1913), Emil (1872-1913), Carl (1873-1934), Anna (1874-1893) and Helene (1876-1944).), Emma died in 1877( at the age of just 28) from tuberculosis.