Keeping the Pot Boiling

A good campaign slogan communicates specific needs or goals in a few memorable words. The Red Kettle Campaign has featured a series of these throughout the past 130 years.

The first slogan, “Keep the Pot Boiling,” is believed to have been coined by Major James J. Keppel around 1894 when he was serving as District Commander in San Francisco. Today, this slogan evokes images of a warm hearth with an old-fashioned cast-iron kettle boiling over with abundant food. In the 1890s the phrase also meant that one had enough money to pay the rent and bills and have enough food to eat. Today, the phrase “making ends meet” conveys the same message.

In successive decades, other official slogans used included: “Christmas Cheer and Welfare all Year,” (mid-late 20th Century) “Sharing is Caring,” (1971-2007) “Need Has no Season,” (1973-2004) and the current Salvation Army brand promise and annual campaign slogan “Doing the Most Good.” (2005-present) All of these slogans communicate the annual campaign goals or values.

In 2005, The Salvation Army centralized its annual campaign messaging.  At this time, the Army’s National Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia began developing annual Red Kettle Campaign slogans and materials for all of the four US territories to use.  Prior to this time, each territory developed their own slogans and promotional materials.

As social media has become increasingly important in how Americans interact, annual campaign hashtags communicate a specific theme for each year. These have included #RedKettleReason (2014, 2017), #FightForGood (2019), and #RescueChristmas (2020).

Click image to enlarge.

Hand colored black and white slide showing a female Salvationist and a kettle stand. Text reads "You can help by dropping your dimes or dollars in the red kettle on the corner."
Early 1900s glass slide urging viewers to donate to The Salvation Army. Image courtesy The Salvation Army National Archives & Research Center
Black and white photograph of male and female Salvation Army officers watching as a man in a suit and hat places a bill into the kettle. The placard reads: "Share your Christmas. Christmas Dinners Baskets of Food Clothing Toys for the Worthy Needy."
Some stand kettle placards, like this one from Indianapolis, IN, specified how the money donated would be used.
Black and white photo of a woman wearing a cape and soft cloth hat with Red Shield logo patch on front. She stands next to a kettle stand. The placard reads: "The Salvation Army Help us make others happy. Merry Christmas."
Brigadier Helen McClellan poses with her c. 1931 Detroit, MI kettle stand.
Black and white photograph of an older man wearing a Salvation Army hat and overcoat ringing a bell near a kettle stand. Shoppers pass by on a city street.
A resident of the Harbor Light program serves as a bellringer for this State Street, Chicago kettle stand. The placard on his kettle stand lets donors know that their donations will be used to help people year-round. Photograph by Louis DeDecker photographer, Chicago American Newspaper
Color photograph of a Salvation Army officer holding a little girl. The girl holds a bell. The placard on the kettle stand behind them reads: "Sharing is Caring. God Bless You. Need has no season."
This Salvation Army officer and little girl are a terrific bellringing team. They stand in front of a kettle stand with an iconic "Sharing is Caring" placard.
Black and white photo of a group of glamourous young women from 1949. The women are from a modeling agency. They hold their kettle stand placard, kettle and bell. The sign reads: "The Salvation Army wishes you a Merry Christmas. Help us Make Others Happy."
A group of women from the Patricia Stevens Modeling Agency pose for a photo with their kettle sign, kettle and handbell before their shift as bellringers.
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