Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fireworks Facts

Hope you had a happy Fourth of July. If you’re like me, you probably saw a ton of fireworks. There’s something fascinating about those splatters of light in the sky --something that tugs at the emotions and captures the imagination.

Everyone in my family has a favorite. A nephew especially enjoys the salutes. My aunt likes the ones that twinkle as they fall.
Ever wonder how these displays came about? Here’s what my research turned up:
Header from samulli

1. Most people trace the invention of fireworks/gunpowder to an unfortunate Chinese alchemist who unintentionally heated sulfur and salt peter (potassium nitrate). It was an explosive discovery.
2. The Chinese call gunpowder "huo yao," which means fire chemical.
3. Early fireworks gave off more bang than light. As they exploded, people saw only a brief golden light.
4. Apparently the Chinese made the first fireworks by shoving gunpowder into bamboo reeds. They exploded them during their New Year’s celebration in hopes of frightening away evil spirits.
5. It’s believed that Marco Polo introduced gunpowder to Europe.
6. Around 1830, Italians began to add trace amounts of metal into the gunpowder, which “colored the explosions.”
7. Copper, for example, creates blue tinted light.
8. Aluminum and magnesium make a golden light.
9. Not surprisingly, other metals make other effects. Zinc creates clouds of smoke and titanium causes sparks.
10. Although onlookers have always enjoyed fireworks, they continue to be dangerous. May 16, 1770, is the date of one of the biggest fireworks tragedies. A fireworks display celebrating the marriage of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette went awry and caused a stampede, which killed some 800 people. Not eight or eighty but 800!
11. Even in recent years, the danger element hasn’t disappeared. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that “fireworks devices were involved in an estimated 8,800 injuries treated in the U.S. hospital emergency departments during the calendar year 2002.”
12. Here’s an interesting statistic. Three times as many males are hurt in fireworks-related incidents than females, according to data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
13. Although I enjoy watching fireworks, I don’t encourage people to set off their own. My suggestion: Consider attending fireworks displays put on by professionals in local parks or on lakefronts.

Correctly handled, fireworks can be a stunning way to celebrate special events. In the United States, we’ve used fireworks to celebrate Independence Day since 1776. That’s when John Adams declared, "The day (Independence Day) will be the most memorable in the history of America. 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 (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this day forward forevermore."

My Independence Day celebration this year followed John Adam’s intent. I had a really good time, but I’d like to hear about your holiday. Did you see the fireworks? What impressed you most?


  1. Nice List...educational and informative. I saw lots too as they span across one sky line...pretty cool!! Happy T13!!!

  2. Thorough list I did not get to see any this year but i do enjoy them.

  3. Smittenly Written,
    I like watching fireworks too. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Marcia,
    Sorry you missed the fireworks this year, but I appreciate your comment.

  5. In the Boston area people light campfires up and down the beach and for miles and miles set off fireworks. It's actually better than professional ones because they go nonstop. The sparks fall in the ocean. It's like a Boston tea party revolt and started when the town stopped doing them.

  6. fireworks is very common in the Phils especially during New year's celebration, it's fun but it is dangerous, I never tried to light one bec i don't want to loose my hand with one mistake.
    what a very informative list.

  7. Colleen,
    The campfires sound great. I'd love to see them.

  8. Willa,
    It sounds like you're wise in your fireworks celebrations.

  9. Great list! You've done some good research here.

  10. We had sparklers at home & a bonfire to get rid of brush, last year the fireworks display in our small town was so quick that we decided it wasn't worth the 12 mile drive in to town to see it! (we live in the mountains, so no hope of seeing it from home)

  11. Wow another informative list I have read :)

    But its really informative and interesting too and I love watching fireworks :) and now I can speak about them too:)

    Thanks for stopping by on mine.

    See you next week!

  12. becky68,
    Your Fourth sounds fun. I'm a fan of sparklers too.

  13. Rims,
    Gosh, thanks. It's nice to gain another fireworks fan's approval. Happy TT!

  14. I don't think I ever heard of the stampede which killed 800 people -- and I think I'd remember 800 people dying!

  15. WOW! Never knew any of this stuff. Thanks so much--because it's ironic since every Thursday here in Lake George is fire works night through out the summer. *V8 moment* Things I should know! Thanks for stopping by too.

  16. Christine,
    How cool that Lake George has fireworks every Thursday. Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Great list! Although I live within three miles of one park that does fireworks, I can hear them, but cannnot see them due to dense tree cover. I settled for watching them on TV. Maybe not quite as exciting, but at least I didn't get eaten up by mosquitoes.

    As a funny side yet relative sidenote, my word verification is "rearm." Very apropos! lol

  18. We actually went over to the local official celebration this year. It was surprisingly fun. :)

    Thanks for the research. I always love research. :D

    (if you get bored you can check out pics of my close encounters with fireworks in Pacifica last year - )

  19. I prefer displays to do-it-yourself. Hopefully they'll be banned here soon. I don't like them!

  20. Here's some for ya: most fireworks come from China, but the quality of the American made is higher. Or so says my local paper anyway!

  21. Interesting about the metals used to create color. I like the shimmery ones, too.

  22. Jaynia Van Roe,
    Thanks for your comment. The stampede happened in 1770 so it probably wasn't that well documented, but I appreciate your concern. I checked the reference on several sites. I believe it’s accurate.

  23. Heather,
    Yeah, the mosquitoes are bad right now. I don't know what to tell you about the "rearm" thing. LOL, thanks for sharing.

  24. Celticlibrarian,
    Thanks for the link. I enjoy your pictures.

  25. Shelley Munro,
    Yeah, I'm with you. I worry about the danger in do-it-yourself displays.

  26. Susan Helene Gottfried,
    So American-made fireworks are better? That's interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Julia Smith,
    I agree. I like the shimmery ones as well.

  28. Marie Antoinette always seemed to be trailed by tragedy, wasn't she?

  29. Hazel,
    I think you're right about
    Marie Antoinette. Thanks for stopping by.

  30. One of my favorite things to see - fireworks! I ooo and ahhh with the best of them watching - and yell ohhh and owwww if I'm near someone setting them off. I prefer partaking than lighting - although so many of the big productions ones are set off remotely now.

  31. Bumbles,
    I also exclaim with each new fireworks burst. I love watching them.