All about Those Red Kettles

Jerry WalchStarred Page By Jerry Walch, 18th Dec 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Money>Charity

The Salvation Army Bell Ringers and their Red Kettles have a long history that dates all the way back to the late 19th century. It all started in 1891 when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee became concerned about the number of people in San Francisco who were going hungry during the holiday season. He made it his goal to provide all of them with a nourishing Christmas dinner. The major obstacle that stood in his way was finding a way to fund the project.

He Prayed for a Solution

Captain McFee had committed to feeding 1,000 of San Francisco’s poorest residents that Christmas, but he had no idea where he was going to get the money to meet his sworn commitment. He lay awake, night after night, wondering and worrying about where the money would come from. Then, one night as he tossed and turned, unable to sleep because of worry, his mind drifted back to his days in Liverpool, England. He was a sailor in those days and he recalled a large, iron kettle that sat on the dock at Stage Landing, “Simpson’s Pot”, it was called. People passing by “Simpson’s Pot” would drop in loose change to help feed the poor. Captain McFee had found his solution. The very next day he placed an iron pot at the foot of Market Street, at the Oakland Ferry Landing. Beside the pot he placed a sign that read, “Keep the pot boiling.” It wasn’t long before he had enough money to feed the 1,000 people he had sworn to feed that Christmas. The next day Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, "Keep the Pot Boiling." He soon had the money to see that the needy people were properly fed at Christmas.

The Idea Spread to Boston

During the next six years, Captain McFee’s idea spread from the West coast to the East coast. That year, 1897, 150,000 Christmas dinners were fed to the needy nationwide. The funds collected with the kettles in New York City were enough to fund a huge sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden in 1901. The sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden became a tradition that continued for many years to come. Today those red kettles provides enough money for the Salvation Army to assist over four-and-a-half million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time periods.

The Red Kettle Goes International

Captain McFee’s idea became a tradition that rapidly circled the globe. After spreading throughout the United States, it spread throughout the world. Today McFee’s red kettles can be found in Korea, Japan, Chile, and throughout Europe. People everywhere are dropping their loose change in those red kettles to help the Salvation Army meet the needs of the less fortunate throughout the year, not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Bell Ringers, and in some cases, Salvation Army Musicians draw people’s attention to the Red Kettles, singing out Christmas greetings to the passersby’s.

National Red Kettle Kickoff - A Thanksgiving Day Tradition

The Salvation Army launched their Red Kettle Campaign every November. The Dallas Cowboys got into the game in 1997 when they brought the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle kickoff to national television. It happened at their Thanksgiving Day game. During the games halftime show, they officially launched the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle holiday fund raising drive. What started that day in 1997 has become a yearly tradion with the Dallas Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboy kickoff helps draw people’s attention to the 20,000 Red Kettles and their Bell Ringers that appear throughout the United States every November. Dallas Cowboys Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones told a writer for the Salvation Army’s paper, Doing the Most Good, “Our Thanksgiving Day half-time shows have become a very visible part of the holiday tradition at Texas Stadium. With the visibility of the Dallas Cowboys and The Salvation Army, we are able to invite the world into our home and offer an invitation for millions of people to make a difference in the lives of so many."
Some of the halftime feature performers that helped draw attention to the kickoff were:
• 2013 - Selena Gomez
• 2012 - Kenny Chesney
• 2011 - Enrique Iglesias
• 2010 - Keith Urban
• 2009 - Daughtry
• 2008 - Jonas Brothers
• 2007 - Kelly Clarkson
• 2006 - Carrie Underwood
• 2005 - Sheryl Crow
• 2004 - Destiny's Child
• 2003 - Toby Keith
• 2002 - LeAnn Rimes
• 2001 - Creed
• 2000 - Jessica Simpson / Billy Gilman
• 1999 - Clint Black
• 1998 - Randy Travis / Linda Davis
• 1997 - Reba McEntire


Bell Ringers, Brass Bands, Captain Mcfee, Christmas, Feeding The Needy, Funds, Red Kettles, Salvation Army, Thanksgiving

Meet the author

author avatar Jerry Walch
Jerry Walch is a 71 year old freelance writer for hire living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has been writing since the late 1970s, and writes for both the print and online media. He specializes in

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
18th Dec 2013 (#)

Very impressive history, and such a good cause too.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
18th Dec 2013 (#)

Thank you Mark. I have more articles in the wings about differen aspects of the Salvation Army and on their programs.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
18th Dec 2013 (#)

So interesting. I did not know much about the organization's history. The Salvation Army is a wonderful organization deserving of our support. I'm glad to help them whenever I can.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
19th Dec 2013 (#)

Thank you Connie. I will highlighting more of their programs. They have many great programs that very few people know about.

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author avatar Legend
19th Dec 2013 (#)

It is great to see how people put such efforts into helping others!

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author avatar Jerry Walch
19th Dec 2013 (#)

Yes, Legend, it's very uplifting.

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author avatar Tony Barnes
25th Dec 2013 (#)

Gives me a place to put the change that builds up in my console over the the year. :-)

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author avatar Jerry Walch
26th Dec 2013 (#)

Good point, Tony :-)

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