The discovery of gunpowder and the invention of the first fireworks (bamboo cases or rolled paper tubes filled with explosives) are traditionally credited to the Chinese, although India could also be an influential source. Firecrackers first started crackling approximately 1,000 years ago with a belief that the loud banging would ward off evil spirits. Events such as births, deaths, weddings or New Year celebrations were common occasions for their use.
Fireworks were traced to Europe as early as the 13th century. Crusaders were likely to have brought them back from the east. Fireworks were widely used for religious events and public entertainment.
Italians were among the first Europeans to manufacture fireworks and they were masters at that craft. Their wares were used all over Europe by the end of the 17th century.
Fireworks in the New World
Early Settlers brought fireworks to the New World. Black powder was fired to celebrate holidays and impress the natives. However, in the colony of Rhode Island, pranksters caused enough problems that in 1731, a ban was issued for the mischievous use of fireworks.
Fireworks had been a part of celebrating important events by the time of the American Revolution. Many of the founding fathers and countrymen, thought of fireworks when independence was declared. Fireworks were part of the celebrations when the first Independence Day was held in 1777.
In the following years, the popularity of fireworks grew. Politicians would use fireworks displays to attract crowds in the 18th century. In 1892, in what some considered the greatest fireworks show in the western hemisphere, the Brooklyn Bridge was lit up for the 400-year celebration for the landing of Christopher Columbus.
Fireworks have been used more recently in the Bicentennial Celebration of 1976, the Centennial of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1983, and many Inauguration celebrations in Washington DC.
The 100th anniversary for the Statue of Liberty has been labeled as one of the most memorable fireworks displays. A unique combination of three of the most famous names in the fireworks business collaborated and worked together for this event in 1986. George Zambelli, of Zambelli Interationale, Inc., Felix Grucci Jr., of Fireworks by Grucci, Inc., and Robert Souza, of Pyro Spectaculars, Inc.
Although competitors in the industry, these men worked closely for a almost a year to plan and design the most spectacular display in honor of Independence Day and Miss Liberty’s 100th anniversary.
The show used 22,000 aerial fireworks, 18,000 set pieces ground pictures, fountains and low display fireworks from 30 barges and other vantage points.
An estimated 220 miles of wire were used, 777,000 lbs. of mortar tubes to launch aerial fireworks and staffed approximately 100 pyrotechnicians to produce the display.
All types of communities and events now use fireworks throughout the year. From ballparks, to stadium shows, to amusement parks. Nothing adds the spectacular finishing touch like a fireworks display. But the most common reference to fireworks, is the Fourth of July and the celebration of our nation’s independence. Fireworks have been a part of or nation’s history since the beginning. And now, more fireworks are ignited on the Fourth of July than any other national celebration in the world.