A (Brief) History of Fireworks

All fireworks were orange until 1830 when Italian pyrotechnics began experimenting with metals in fireworks!

Many people are aware that the invention of fireworks can be attributed to the Ancient Chinese. In fact, the original firecrackers were nothing more than bamboo sticks thrown into fire pits – the heat from the fire would expand the porous wood-like grass until it exploded. This practice was used for hundreds of years beginning in 200 BC to ward off evil spirits and attract good luck to the villages. In 800 AD, alchemists were frantically searching for a way to create eternal life by combining unusual ingredients together. Unfortunately, no one found the key to immortality, but one alchemist did find that a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate caused a chemical reaction that lit on fire! This lead not only to gunpowder as a military weapon, but also to the development of fireworks: the powder was packed into bamboo and paper tubes which were thrown into the fire as before, but now the explosions were bigger, louder, and more exciting.

Of course, it didn’t take long before this technology migrated West to Europe. Missionaries, diplomats, and explorers took the knowledge of this invention back with them and adapted it for their own technologies. By the year 1200, military weapons like cannons and aerial fireworks were par for the course in China and its surrounding areas. In the 1400's, European royals were using fireworks displays to impress one another, such as King Henry VII’s incendiary celebration of his marriage to Elizabeth of York. By 1600, Europeans had made fireworks displays their own, modifying the powder combination and structures of the tubes to create unique shapes, quick explosions, slower burns, and more. Did you know Italians created the sparkler during the Renaissance? 

The Renaissance truly was the beginning of fireworks as we know them today. Pyrotechnics schools across Italy were opened to the public to train young men how to create and set off elaborate displays for celebrations of all kinds. Books were written, scientists were inspired, and people were delighted with fireworks the world over. 

However, it wasn’t until the year 1830 that colors were incorporated into fireworks. Prior to this, all fireworks were orange, as that particular combination of ingredients produced only that color. In the 19th century, Italians began experimenting with different metals inside the gunpowder mixture, sparking a new wave of hues that were further perfected across the decades until today. 

The first American Independence Day fireworks were set off the year following America’s Declaration of Independence: 1777. John Adams correctly predicted that Americans would celebrate this day in perpetuity, and today it is the biggest annual fireworks celebration across the country. 

Just like the Renaissance, however, fireworks celebrations during every type of special occasion are becoming more expected and anticipated by everyone. While we love Independence Day and New Year’s shows, we believe every occasion is the perfect time to light up the sky. Whether it’s a wedding, gender reveal party, St. Patty’s Day, Christmas, birthdays, and more, there is always a good reason to celebrate with a beautiful fireworks display. We can’t wait to see how you celebrate!

Check out some of our awesome products that are perfect for every occasion. Next time you light off a firework, be sure to remember the crazy history of pyrotechnics and how cool it is that we got to where we are today!  

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