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The History of Fireworks

Many people who head to the Houston fireworks show every July 4 know that those splashes of color on the nighttime sky have symbolized this American holiday for as long as they can remember. However, you may not realize just how old the tradition of fireworks displays really is.

On July 4, 1777, exactly one year after the United States declared its independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, fireworks displays took place in Boston and then-capital Philadelphia to celebrate the holiday. This was even though the Revolutionary War would not end for another six years. However, that was exactly why these celebrations were necessary, to help create a sense of patriotism so early in the country’s history.

Other early Independence Day fireworks displays took place in 1779 in Worcester, Mass., and in 1783 in Charleston, S.C. Also in 1783, fireworks were placed on public sale for the first time in Philadelphia.

However, the history of fireworks actually dates about 2,000 years to the Han dynasty in China. It is believed that they originated when green bamboo was thrown into a fire, and it exploded, much to the surprise of those who witnessed this discovery. However, much like lovers of horror movies today, they started enjoying the tension that was created from the anticipation of these loud bangs.

The Chinese soon utilized this scare tactic to chase away spirits, such as Nian, who likes to come out of hiding to attack people and crops. These early fireworks shows were also used to commemorate special occasions like births and coronations.

Shortly after gun powder was invented, it was added to the bamboo to create more spectacular explosions than the blasts that were caused solely from the expansion of air and sap.

One of the first people to bring fireworks from China into Europe was Marco Polo, who did so in 1292, and the Italians were the first to really advance the artistic aspect of fireworks as they modified rockets with charcoal and metals to light up the sky. The Italians were also able to create fireworks that exploded once the deployed canisters were at their maximum altitude. Soon, these controlled blasts were being used in places throughout Europe for celebrations like festivals and weddings.

However, fireworks did not really become popular in Europe until the latter half of the 1700s, around the time that they started being regularly used in the United States. Pierre Nicolas le Cheron d’Incrville, a Jesuit missionary from France who was living in China at the time, sent information about how fireworks were made to the Paris Academy of Sciences. Once his work was translated in 1765, the number of people in Europe who became interested in them and how they worked increased dramatically.

Italy would later become responsible for how colorful fireworks are today. Prior to the early 1800s, their colors were generally limited to orange and white. However, the Italians utilized chemical advancements to create explosions that were also blue, green, red and yellow. In addition, they discovered a way to create explosions that were brighter and deeper. Today, fireworks shows can even include colors such as aqua, pink and salmon.

This history is continuing to be written in modern days. In fact, the world record for the largest fireworks show was set on Dec. 31, 2013, when more than 500,000 of them were lit along a 58-mile span in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to commemorate New Year’s Eve. The previous record was 77,000; this mark was shattered within the first minute of the six-minute show.

It is clear that fireworks can help make any event special, and many of those who desire a show for their own Houston celebration utilize party rentals and convention services companies. In fact, many have decided to enjoy indoor fireworks shows as these have become increasingly popular and can be safely provided by the same party rentals and convention services businesses.

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