It would be hard to imagine a Salvation Army Red Kettle stand without a bellringer.  For more than a century, the familiar ting-a-ling of a handheld bell has been one of the sounds of the Christmas season.

In 1901 seventeen-year-old Probationary Lieutenant Amelia Emma Kunkle, a native of Johnstown, PA, was serving an appointment at the New York Bowery Corps.  She wanted to attract the attention of passersby as she staffed her assigned kettle stand. “A supervisor suggested that I bang on the kettle with a stick, but that didn’t work very well. So, I suggested a little bell to ring.” She recalled in her later years. Amelia’s idea to use a simple handheld bell was just the right cheery sound to be heard on crowded street corners.

In addition to the familiar sound of a handbell, some kettle bellringers seek to entertain and bring joy to passersby.  Playing brass instruments or singing are popular ways to bring joy to others.


Click images to enlarge

Color photo of a family working as bellringers at a kettle stand. The father is seated and plays the tuba, mother wears a vintage Salvation Army bonnet and red cape, the two children wear bellringer aprons and hold handbells.
Sometimes the whole family gets involved in the Red Kettle Campaign. The Yanez family from the Chicago Lawn, IL corps served as bellringers in 2011.
Three young men play brass instruments while standing in front of a kettle stand in Detroit, MI in 1963. One man plays the trombone and the other two play cornettes.
Patrick LeNier, George Rawlin and George Luse, all members of the Detroit (Citadel), MI band play instruments in front of a kettle stand. Photo courtesy Detroit News, December 22, 1963.
A group of men stand in a line outside on a city street sidewalk. The men wear hats and topcoats. Some men wear Salvation Army uniforms and are playing brass instruments. The other men have paper signs taped to their hats and hold metal pans to collect donations. A sign on top of the kettle stand reads: "The Universal Club and Salvaiton Army Christmas Bell Ringers"
Members of Indianapolis, IN Universal Club joined forces with a group of Salvationist bandsmen to collect donations at this kettle stand.
Black and white photo of three children. A boy plays a tuba while two girls sing. The children stand in front of a kettle stand with placard that reads "Give a Happy Christmas. Share with Others."
Three children share the gift of music in front of a kettle stand.
Red smock style bellringer fabric apron.
For more than 50 years, red aprons have been worn by official bell ringers designating them as volunteers or paid workers.
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