The Salvation Army Captain in San Francisco had decided in December of 1891 to provide a Christmas dinner to all the poor in the area.
As he went about his daily tasks he wondered how he would pay for it all. Suddenly, he thought back to his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England. On the Stage Landing was a large pot called “Simpson’s Pot” which was used for charity donations.
He secured permission the next day to have a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry landing at the foot of Market Street. No time was lost in securing a pot for the position, so all passer-bys could see it going to the ferry boats. A brass urn had been placed in the waiting room for the same purpose.
Thus, Cpt. Joseph McFee launched a tradition that has spread throughout the world. By Christmas of 1895 the kettle was used in 30 Salvation Army locations in the West Coast. Shortly afterwards two young Salvation Army officers who were instrumental in the cause took the idea of the Christmas kettle to the East Coast; they were William McIntyre and N.J. Lewis.
In 1897, McIntyre prepared his Christmas in Boston, but his fellow officers refused to help out. So, McIntyre, his wife, and sister placed three kettles on Washington Street in the heart of the city. That year the kettle effort in Boston and nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy.
In 1898, the New York World hailed The Salvation Army Kettles as “the newest and most novel device for collecting money.”
In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner at Madison Square Garden, and this continued for many years. Today, this same kettle drive provides meals for the homeless. It also goes to help the Salvation Army serve 30 million people through other services such as; Disaster Response, Social Services, Caseworkers, Youth Services, Senior Centers, Christmas Programs, and Human Sex Trafficking Advocacy.
Kettles are now in Korea, Japan, Chile, and most European countries. The Salvation Army brings the spirit of Christmas to those who would otherwise be forgotten all year long. To the aged, lonely, ill, inmates, poor, and unfortunate.