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Two quintessential sounds of summer are that of the ice cream truck and the loud explosion of fireworks. Whether you’re the type that covers their ears when you hear them pop or you’re the one that is lighting them off, you still must be curious about their origin. Right? We went ahead and traveled back in time to learn the backstory of this fun tradition that so many use as part of their patriotic celebrations current day.
The fun displays that we know now aren’t exactly how fireworks originated. Would you believe if I told you that they were essentially the first form of a rocket? Well they were! As early as 200 B.C. the Chinese had already begun to make a sort of firecracker by roasting bamboo, which would then burst because of its structure. This beginning stage had no malicious intent though, it was simply to ward off evil spirits.
Between 600 and 900 AD China had formed the first form of gunpowder, which they would then stuff into bamboo shoots and throw into fire to create loud explosions. Shortly after, they started to replace the bamboo shoots with paper and realized the these new creations could be used for much more than what they originally planned. By attaching these new explosives to arrows, they were able to attack enemies from afar and thus created some of the first forms of rockets in warfare.
Around the 13th century the news of this gunpowder and explosives started to become known amongst other areas of the world because of explorers and missionaries and more intense weaponry started to appear.
While the popularity and complexity of weapons continued to expand, so did the recreational side of fireworks. Although they originally were used to celebrate victories in battles, they started to become associated with more common celebrations as well.
During the Renaissance, schools began to emerge in various cities around Europe to teach the process of building pyrotechnics. It was in the 1830’s that the Italians started to add metal in order to create the bright and colorful fireworks that we know today. The Europeans took quite a liking to fireworks and started to incorporate them into almost all of their celebrations. From weddings to coronations, fireworks were present on all major days at the castles.
The same overly enthusiastic Europeans are, according to word of mouth legends, the ones who brought them to the New World in the 1600 and 1700 hundreds. While fireworks were used for celebrations around the world at this point, it was in 1776 that they truly became a patriotic act in the United States.
The day before the Declaration of Independence was signed, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife in which he referenced fireworks (known at the time as illuminations). “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade…bonfires and illuminations…from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” Still to this day firework shows are used as patriotic celebrations to honor both past events in our history and also celebrate its current achievements.
Are there any fun legends or facts that we missed about the history of fireworks? Let us know in the comments!