The Red Kettle Campaign has been a part of The Salvation Army tradition for over 100 years and supports a variety of programs and services unique to each community. Every year you will find hundreds of thousands of bell ringers hanging around the kettles from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, bringing Christmas cheer and inviting people to remember those less fortunate during the holidays. Bell ringing is something most everyone can do and it really can be fun as an individual or as a with a group. Add some talent into the mix and now you are really brightening up the season for the shoppers and for those individuals and families looking for a little hope during the holidays and throughout the year. We hope you will consider joining us as a bell ringer this season. Below you can find the history of the Red Kettle. You may also find more information under the “Red Kettle Campaign” tab on other ways you can participate and have a great kettle experience.


The Salvation Army’s red kettles have become a Christmas tradition in nearly every part of the world, but the idea for the little collection pots was born over a century ago, from prayer and desperation.

The red kettle story goes back to 1891, when Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco, California, was overwhelmed with the number of poor in that city. McFee had a simple idea. He wanted to provide free Christmas dinners to 1,000 of the poorest of those people, to give them some holiday hope. Sadly, he had no money for the meals.

McFee tossed and turned at night, praying and thinking about the problem. Slowly, a solution came. He recalled his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England. At Stage Landing, where the ships docked, a large iron kettle called “Simpson’s Pot” had been placed. People walking by would toss in a coin or two for the needy.

Finding a pot, Captain McFee put it at the Oakland Ferry Landing, by the foot of San Francisco’s busy Market Street. He placed a sign next to it that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” Word got around quickly, and by Christmas the kettle had raised enough money to feed the poor.