Sunday, June 19, 2022

Fireworks in the early 1900s

by Susan G Mathis

Who doesn’t love a good fireworks display? We know they were invented in China to fend off evil spirits and celebrate cultural events. But how did they make it to the West and become so extravagant?

Marco Polo is credited for bringing fireworks from Asia to Europe in 1295. The rich quickly grasped onto the pyrotechnic wonders and tasked their jesters to use fireworks to entertain their people and to celebrate everything from the birth of a baby to holidays and to tout successful conquests.

In medieval England, Henry VII celebrated his wedding day with fireworks in 1486, and thus began a tradition of using fireworks to commemorate royal events. In 1685, King James II’s coronation was so spectacular that the fire master received knighthood for his efforts. In Russia, Czar Peter the Great celebrated his son’s birth with a five-hour fireworks extravaganza.

Pyrotechnic schools arose during the Renaissance, and fireworks became more complicated and elaborate as they invented new ways of creating and shooting off the fireworks.

Yet, until the 1800s, fireworks were basically orange. But then the Italians started working with various chemicals to create new colors. When sodium nitrate is heated, electrons in the sodium atoms absorb the energy and get excited. They release their energy of yellow light. Orange is created with calcium salts and calcium chloride. Reds are made with strontium salts, strontium carbonate and lithium salts. Purple is made with a mix of blue-producing copper compounds and red-producing strontium compounds. Blues are made with copper-chloride compounds. Green is made with barium chloride and other barium compounds.

In America, fireworks commemorated the first Independence Day celebration on July 4, 1777, and pyrotechnic displays became an annual tradition from then on. In the Thousand Islands, fireworks have been on grand display since the 1800s. And today, if you visit Disneyland, fireworks are a nightly event.

Fireworks has a fascinating history, science, and social connection of sights, sounds, smells, and even taste. While you read my latest novel about a girl who is tasked to put on a fireworks display, or when you enjoy your next fireworks show, consider how they came to be, and be inspired.

About Peyton's Promise

Book 3 of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series

Summer 1902
Peyton Quinn is tasked with preparing the grand Calumet Castle ballroom for a spectacular two-hundred-guest summer gala. As she works in a male-dominated position of upholsterer and fights for women’s equality, she’s persecuted for her unorthodox ways. But when her pyrotechnics-engineer father is seriously hurt, she takes over the plans for the fireworks display despite being socially ostracized.

Patrick Taylor, Calumet’s carpenter and Peyton’s childhood chum, hopes to win her heart, but her unconventional undertakings cause a rift. Peyton has to ignore the prejudices and persevere or she could lose her job, forfeit Patrick’s love and respect, and forever become the talk of local gossips.

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books.

Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma, and Katelyn’s Choice have each won multiple awards, and book three, Peyton’s Promise, comes out May 2022 with Rachel’s Reunion in November. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise, and Reagan’s Reward, are also award winners.

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan lives in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling the world. Visit for more.


  1. Thanks for posting today! I love fireworks, but I can't imagine a 5 hour event!!!

  2. Five hours of fireworks seems a bit extreme. There were probably a lot of crying babies and terrified animals.