Booth’s ministry efforts evolved into the establishment of a religious and charitable organization, the Salvation Army, which he founded in England in 1871. This organization was initially staffed by volunteers and operated according to a hierarchical structure modeled after the military. Volunteers wore uniforms and held titled positions styled after military uniforms and rankings. In addition, the Salvation Army's evangelization efforts were often accompanied by its own military-style brass band. Through the establishment of this new social service organization, Booth sought to provide aid and assistance to those in need, while also encouraging their conversion to the Christian faith.
The Salvation Army soon spread to America, first to Philadelphia (the City of Brotherly Love), and later to the West Coast. Major Alfred Wells established the first West Coast chapter of the Salvation Army in San Francisco in 1883. Significantly, the San Francisco chapter of the Salvation Army also debuted the organization's first ever collection kettle in 1891. The collection kettle, now an iconic symbol of the organization's work, was initially implemented in San Francisco to collect donations to fund a soup kitchen for those in need at Christmastime.
Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee had the idea to set up a collection kettle at the Oakland ferry landing in 1891 to solicit donations that could be used to cook and serve a Christmas dinner for the poor living in the San Francisco area. McFee was inspired with the idea after having witnessed similar collection kettles along the wharves in Liverpool, England. By 1895, the Salvation Army's collection kettle was implemented in 30 locations throughout the West Coast to help fund the organization's efforts during the Christmas season. A red collection kettle, in particular, has since become the organization's most recognizable symbol worldwide. The kettle is typically accompanied by a bell-ringer or by members of the organization's brass band.
Following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, the Salvation Army also became active in disaster relief efforts throughout the city, setting up tents and providing meals for those in need. During World War I, the Salvation Army again expanded its efforts by attending to soldiers stationed in Europe. Later, amidst the Great Depression during the 1930s, the organization boosted its domestic efforts 700 percent to combat hunger through the provision of soup kitchens throughout the United States. In 1941, the Salvation Army then became involved in the creation of the U.S.O. (the United Service Organization), which linked several religious and social service organizations together to provide relief to troops during wartime amidst the outbreak of World War II.
Today, the Salvation Army continues to be active in the United States and across the globe. Its social services have expanded considerably since the nineteenth century, when the organization defined its focus as the relief of material and spiritual poverty. In addition to maintaining its religious and spiritual orientation while providing poverty relief and disaster relief, the Salvation Army also currently addresses related issues such as domestic violence, homelessness, hunger, drug addiction, gang violence, and illiteracy. It is now a major social service provider, operating in nearly every corner of the world.