Tonight, July 1, a Saturday night. Many across our country took advantage of this day to celebrate Independence Day. The Fourth of July, a few days early.
So, they celebrate. Many people have a few drinks or more. And then, they take volatile explosives into their hands and shoot them off. Or worse yet, they buy really big bad explosives. And then…. in early July, typically one of the driest times in the United States, they fire them into the air and scatter the burning embers below.
Rocket Scientists, I call them. But that is the celebration of choice for some reason.
Fireworks. This is not a new thing. Most historians credit the origins of this form of entertainment to China. Which… by the way…. produces (and exports) more fireworks than any other country in the world.
So… this started somewhere around 200 B.C. Those folks in China found a natural form of the crack-a-lackin! They would roast bamboo. I kid you not. And that bamboo explodes when it is heated. Explodes with a big dang bang…. due to its hollow air pockets. And they lit these things, time and again, in order to ward off evil spirits.
Yep. Those are the origins.
Then, they started getting cocky. At some point between 600 and 900 A.D., some Chinese alchemists concocted a mixture that formed an early version of gunpowder.
Then, one day, somebody… let’s call him Gary. Gary Wong. Or it could have been his best friend. Harold. Harold White. Just a couple of Chinese guys, pals since they were five. Okay. Gary got the bright idea to start stuffing this explosive substance INTO those bamboo shoots. And then they started pitching them into the campfire. KaBOOM! Or it could have been Harold. Nonetheless…. Whether it was White or Wong….the first fireworks were born.
From that point on… paper tubes came to replace the bamboo stalks. And those folks in China started doing more than scaring away ghosts and evil spirits. The used the fireworks to celebrate special events. I can see the immediate connection. How they leaped from this… to that….
Of course, bigger is always better… people say. So… by the 10th century, the Chinese had taken this a big step further. They made crude bombs of this explosive stuff…. and began attaching them to arrows. Then, they shot these at their enemies during military skirmishes. Bigger kaBOOMS. And there it went.
The history of fireworks takes many twists and turns along the way.
So how did we get into the mix? Well.. on July 3, 1776, our boy John Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abagail. (They did a lot of letter writing.) He talked about the upcoming celebration of Independence. “The day will be most memorable in the history of America,” he predicted. “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 (a term for fireworks??) …from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”
And so it happened. The following year…. a bunch of guys in knickers and wigs…. drank a few pints of grog…. and lit a bunch of fireworks to commemorate the country’s first anniversary. And here we are today.
Today, most states regulate how and where fireworks may be used. BUT, and that is a BIG BUT, a lot goes wrong. CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) staff receives an average of 7.4 reports of fireworks-related deaths per year. Fireworks were involved in an estimated 11,100 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during the calendar year of 2016.
Happy Fourth. Smoke ‘em if ya’ got ‘em folks.