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The History of Fireworks

Jul 20, 2017 12:00 AM


Fireworks are most often associated with the celebration of Independence Day but they actually have a long history that dates back to 200 B.C. The history of fireworks started in China and to this day, they are the largest producer and exporter of fireworks in the world.  Unlike the pyrotechnics we know today, the Chinese used a natural firework – roasting bamboo, which explodes when heated due to the air inside – to ward off evil spirits at the new year. 

Its Beginnings: China

Chinese monk Li Tian is credited with creating the first firecracker. By 900 A.D., they had created a gunpowder by mixing potassium nitrate, charcoal, sulfur and more. The gunpowder was then stuffed into the bamboo shoots and set off by being thrown into a fire, producing a loud noise similar to what we think of today. 

Used for Military

As they continued developing the firework, its uses expanded to include military uses. First, by attaching them to arrows that were shot at enemies and then later by shooting them into the air at specific targets. As they became larger and more elaborate, they also began using them for enjoyment purposes as well.

Arrival in Europe

It wasn’t until the 13th century that the use of fireworks was brought to Europe by Marco Polo. Once it spread, there was a rush to make them more powerful, more potent and more beautiful. In 1830, The Italians were the first to add substances that produced colorful bursts to the fireworks. By the time the Renaissance took place, there were schools with the specific purpose of training firework technicians, or artists. 

The First Use in America

The first firework display in America was seen in 1608 in Jamestown. When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, John Adams believed the day would be celebrated throughout history with “bonfires and illuminations”, a term for fireworks at the time. And so it is, as Americans celebrate years and years with large, colorful displays that light up the sky. 

Do you have a child who is interested in the science of things, how things work or where they came from? If so, you should check out the classes and camps being offered by Mad Science.  They are designed to deliver hands-on, unique science experiences for children that are both entertaining and educational.  

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