Emil Frey

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Emil Frey
Emil Frey, 1890.jpg
Frey in 1890
President of Switzerland
In office
1 January 1894 – 31 December 1894
Preceded byKarl Schenk
Succeeded byJosef Zemp
Head of the Military Department
In office
Preceded byWalter Hauser
Succeeded byEduard Müller
Swiss ambassador to the United States
In office
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded byAlfred de Claparède
Director International Telegraph Union
In office
11 March 1897 – 1 August 1921
Preceded byTimotheus Rothen
Succeeded byHenri Etienne
Personal details
Born(1838-10-24)October 24, 1838
Arlesheim, Switzerland
DiedDecember 24, 1922(1922-12-24) (aged 84)
Arlesheim, Switzerland
Political partyFree Democratic Party
Military service
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

Emil Johann Rudolf Frey (24 October 1838 – 24 December 1922) was a Swiss politician, Union Army soldier in the American Civil War and member of the Swiss Federal Council (1890–1897). He served as President of the Swiss Confederation in 1894.

Early life[edit]

Frey was born in Arlesheim, in the Canton of Basel-Landschaft, to Emil Remigius Frey and Emma Kloss.[1] His father was a liberal separatist politician.

Frey's family provided refuge for Friedrich Hecker when he fled the repression following the revolution in Germany in 1848. After attending gymnasium in Basel, Frey went to study in an agronomical institute in Jena.[1] In 1860 he emigrated to the United States, arriving in Belleville, Illinois, an area with many Forty-Eighters, veterans of the 1848 revolutions in Europe. For a while he worked for Hecker, but they had a falling-out.[2]

American Civil War[edit]

Frey in the Union Army, 1862

Frey enlisted in the Union Army's 24th Illinois Infantry Regiment as a private.[3] He wrote in his essay "My American Experiences" that "on 17th of June [1861] I enlisted in the 24th at Chicago. On that same day I was appointed by Colonel Hecker to be the colorbearer of the regiment, and in the evening we left Chicago for Alton, Ill." 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.

Frey raised the 82nd Illinois Infantry Regiment (known as "Second Hecker Regiment") and was the regiment's acting colonel at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, where he was taken prisoner. He was held in Libby Prison for eighteen months before being exchanged for Captain Gordon, a Confederate prisoner who had been sentenced to death. Frey held the rank of major at the end of the war .[3]

Political career[edit]

After the Civil War, Frey returned to Switzerland. From 1866 to 1872, he was a member of the cantonal government of Basel-Country. In 1870, he married Emma Kloss (born 1848) from Liestal, with whom he had five children: Hans (1871–1913), Emil (1872–1913), Carl (1873–1934), Anna (1874–1893) and Helene (1876–1944). In 1877 Emma died from pulmonary tuberculosis, aged just 28 years.

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.

International Telegraph Union[edit]

In 1897, following his retirement from his second period as a member of Switzerland’s National Council, Frey was nominated as Director of the ITU Bureau at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference to replace Timotheus Rothen. He held the post for almost a quarter of a century and took part in the International Telegraph Conferences of 1903 in London and 1908 Lisbon. [4][5]

After leaving ITU in August 1921, Frey died, two months after his eighty-fifth birthday, on Christmas Eve 1922 after a long and very eventful life.

Literary works[edit]

  • Aus den Erlebnissen eines Schweizers im Sezessionskriege, Bern 1893, (translated: "From the experiences of a Swiss in the War of Secession")
  • Die Kriegstaten der Schweizer, dem Volk erzählt, Neuchâtel 1905, (translated: "The Swiss Acts of War, told to the People")

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fritz Grieder. "Emil Frey". Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (in French). Translated by Pierre-G. Martin.
  2. ^ II Formation and Enlistment Archived 2008-11-19 at the Wayback Machine by Ray W. Burhop, accessed December 10, 2007
  3. ^ a b 'Receiving the Swiss Minister: Col. Frey receiving the congratulations of his countrymen' The New York Times, November 20, 1882; Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, Civil War, vols. 2 and 5.
  4. ^ ITU: ITU's Former Secretaries-General
  5. ^ "Elected Official Biography - Emil Frey". International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved 2021-11-25.

External links[edit]

Preceded by President of the Swiss National Council
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Timotheus Rothen
Director International Telegraph Union
Succeeded by
Henri Etienne