For centuries, fireworks have been used across the globe to commemorate events and illuminate the night sky. By mixing gunpowder with other combustible chemicals, contemporary firework manufacturers are able to achieve a myriad of colors, designs, and effects to expand the variety of pyrotechnics year after year. Although today used primarily as celebratory instruments, fireworks have come a long way to arrive at this modern use; here is a brief history of fireworks and pyrotechnics and how the field continues to offer new applications even today.
The Historical Origins of Fireworks
The principle ingredient in fireworks is gunpowder which was invented in China’s Tang Dynasty during the 9th century AD; there are earlier accounts from the Han Dynasty around the 1st century AD that may be describing gunpowder however. During the 10th century, gunpowder was used to create the first fireworks which were used to scare away evil spirits during the Ghost Festival — this was a time when spirits would come to the world of the living to partake in offerings meant to appease them. Gunpowder and subsequently fireworks were thought to have travelled along the Silk Road through the Middle East and eventually to Europe where some of the first modern firearms were designed.
The Birth of a Tradition
In the United States, fireworks have become synonymous with the Fourth of July. This tradition actually began before the Declaration of Independence was even signed, as the second-president-to-be John Adams envisioned fireworks as an integral part of Independence Day festivities. On the one year anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1777 the first commemorative fireworks were fired in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Likewise, fireworks were also launched that night in Boston, Massachusetts. To this day, millions of Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and of course sparklers. Sparklers were first invented in Germany during the 1850s and consisted of a stiff metal wire about 10 inches long that was dipped in a thick batter of a slow-burning pyrotechnic composition. Today Americans have the opportunity to buy sparklers in a variety of colors and sizes based off of those first German sparklers.
One of the fastest growing traditions in the nation is to include sparklers in one’s wedding ceremony. Since many couples pick two to three wedding colors, it makes sense for them to accent their wedding with multi-colored sparklers which look perfect in photos. A traditional sparkler only lasts for about 45 seconds; wedding sparklers are available in multiple sizes with 10 and 20 inch sparklers lasting for about two and a half minutes and 36 inch wedding sparklers lasting for nearly four minutes. There are a number of companies online from which couples can buy sparklers for their weddings; in order to effectively buy sparklers for a wedding, couples should order enough for about 75% of their guests as small children and some guests may not wish to partake in the dazzling display. For a uniquely festive wedding idea, consider buying specialized wedding sparklers that compliment your theme colors.