Our History

Frederic Russell Bigelow, the fourth president of the Saint Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company (now Travelers), established the F. R. Bigelow Foundation in 1938 with 1,500 shares of Fire and Marine stock.

A gregarious and compassionate man, Frederic was deeply committed to serving the community. He established the Foundation to ensure the well-being of individuals and the Saint Paul area for generations to come.

Frederic served as the Foundation chair until his death in 1946 at age 76. That same year, the Foundation evolved from being a trust to a charitable organization and soon after made its first grant. By the 1970s, the Foundation saw an opportunity to grow and transform itself into a philanthropic leader and create the kind of change that would have made Frederic proud.

After 30 years of doing business the same way, the board drew on the Foundation’s long history to develop a path to the future. This included formally defining the Foundation’s grantmaking priorities, adapting its investments strategy to ensure long-term asset growth and leading significant community initiatives on issues important to Frederic’s legacy.

Some of these new efforts included initiatives in housing, human services and downtown development – always in the spirit of Frederic, yet in ways he might never have imagined. His generosity has strengthened neighborhoods like Frogtown and Summit-University, two of Saint Paul’s most economically distressed areas. In the 1990s, the Foundation played a leading role in helping the community reclaim the Mississippi River – a primary strategy in revitalizing downtown Saint Paul – and investing in development projects that have transformed the riverfront.

Today, the Foundation plays a vital role in the Central Corridor light-rail development, continues its leadership in early literacy and math skills for children, and supports organizations committed to making the Saint Paul community a place where everyone can thrive.

F. R. Bigelow Foundation is an affiliate of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners.