|Blogger: Amber Schamel
Happy early Independence Day, everyone! To honor the celebration, I thought we would take a historical dive into one of the most iconic elements of this holiday: fireworks.
Fun fact: The official name for "fireworks" is actually "pyrotechnics."
|An illustration of a fireworks display from the 1628-1643
edition of the Ming dynasty book Jin Ping Mei.
The first known fireworks originated in China. Most historians believe during the Song dynasty, around 950 AD. The first versions of this incredible invention placed an early form of gunpowder inside a hollow bamboo rod. Pyrotechnicians in China were respected for their work, and the development of such low-level explosives became an independent profession included in many displays and celebrations.
Fireworks were introduced to the Europeans by Marco Polo in the thirteenth century, so by the time the pilgrims came to the United States, they brought with them a love of fireworks. They were used in numerous celebrations before Independence Day. So what made them so iconic with July 4th?
|An etching of the Royal Fireworks display -1749.
Well, fireworks seemed to be in the plan from the very beginning. John Adams, when writing to his wife about the adoption of the Declaration said this:
"I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding
Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be
commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to
God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews,
Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of
this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more." (Emphasis mine.)
Apparently when John Adams envisioned Independence Day anniversaries, he saw fireworks in his mind's eye. Not surprising then, is that the very first July 4 celebration included a large display of fireworks, along with salutes from cannons. The cannons were phased out, however the fireworks stuck. By 1898 a reporter noted that “the American Fourth of July is the greatest event the maker of firecrackers knows.”
Fun Fact: Pyrotechnicians did not develop colored fireworks until the 1830's.
The development of fireworks is not only a profession and art, but also a science. If you're curious about how fireworks get their colors, this invention was made by Italian pyrotechnicians in 1930. Here's a Youtube Video explaining the science behind firework colors.
|Fireworks behind the Washington Monument
Not-So-Fun-Fact: Did you know that Cherry Bombs were first used as weapons during the American Civil War? They were banned in 1966, however Keith Moon weaponized them again by using illegal cherry bombs to blow up toilets in hotels.
Fireworks are amazing fun, and a wonderful way to celebrate Independence Day! But please also remember to be very careful. In 2019, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 10,000 injuries from July 4th fireworks. 36% of those were children under the age of 15. So PLEASE, make sure you and your children are safe while celebrating this year.
Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".
She lives in Colorado Springs near her favorite mountain, in a small “castle” with her prince charming. Between enjoying life as a new mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.