The First American Fireworks

July 7, 2013 in Trivia

Fireworks on Derby WharfFireworks first came into use during the Han dynasty in China about 200 B.C. according to fireworks company Pyro Universe. Historians speculate the first “firecrackers” were chunks of green bamboo that sizzled, blackened and then unexpectedly exploded after being thrown into a fire. This happened because air and sap trapped inside the bamboo plant expand to the point of bursting the plant with a loud noise. It became customary for the Chinese to throw bamboo onto a fire during lunar new year celebrations to scare away evil spirits. Over time, the practice extended to other special occasions.

Development of fireworks more deliberately in manufacture and use is considered to have begun in China as early as the seventh century. By the end of the first millennium, trade in fireworks had become commonplace in parts of China. Chinese fireworks began to gain popularity in Europe much later during the seventeenth century.

Early settlers arrived in North America with the same new enthusiasm for fireworks as in Europe. In fact, American colonists used fireworks for celebrations well before the Revolutionary War. Fireworks were a big part of the festivities in the first celebration of America’s Independence Day in 1877. Ever since then, fireworks have been commonly laden with patriotic meaning in American culture.

“And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” — Francis Scott Key.

Fireworks in the United States are closely associated in American national culture with the image of explosive lights in the sky during the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British in the War of 1812. That battle was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key’s lyrics in what would become the American national anthem.