A Bang of a Birthday!

Fireworks 2 Andrea/Cara here, festooned in red, white and blue for America’s grand birthday party celebration today. And for all of you in other countries around the globe, come party with us! You’re invited to come to share in the hot dogs, hamburgers, blueberries, strawberries and whipped cream that are among the traditional picnic favorites served across our country.

11012526_411371915725626_5290902940259848619_nAnother grand tradition of the day is fireworks—no Fourth of July would be complete without the spectacular bursts of bright colors and loud bands lighting up the night sky. (Quite fitting, I suppose, since creating our country demanded that we set off a few sparks!) It’s interesting to note that John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers, wrote a letter on July 4th, 1776—our Declaration of Independence day—in which he predicted that future celebrations would include pyrotechnics. (I don’t think we’ve disappointed him!)
 
“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 …from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”

Furttenbach_FeuerwerkAnd since you all know how much we love history here at the Word Wenches, I couldn't resist doing a little research on the history of fireworks—and here are a few highlights. Celebrating grand events with fireworks goes back centuries, to around 600 AD in China, when the fortuitous combination of saltpeter, charcoal and sulfur (likely the result of a kitchen accident) first created the basic formula for gunpowder. Known as “firedrug” some of its early uses included being  packed in bamboo cylinders and thrown into the fire to ward off evil spirits.

Fireworks 3Gunpowder went on to have far more bellicose uses, of course, but the use of fireworks in ceremonial celebrations—battle victories, coronations, milestone anniversaries—has become a tradition in all parts of the globe. Here are a few more fun facts from its glorious history!

In medieval England, explosive specialists were called Fire Masters, and their assistants were called “green men” because they worn hats made of leaves to protect their heads.

In Renaissance Italy, pyrotechnics was viewed as an art (but of course!) and there were schools to train masters to create elaborate displays.

Fireworks became very popular among European rulers as a way to entertain their subjects—and emphasis their own grandeur. The first recorded display in England was on Henry VII’s wedding day in 1486. In France, Versailles was the site of many spectacular illuminations, while in Russia, Tsar Peter the Great staged a display that last over five hours to celebrate the birth of his son.

RoyalFireworks

Fireworks 4 Legend has it that Captain John Smith set off he first display of pyrotechnics in America at Jamestown in 1608. And in 1731, the colonists of Rhode Island apparently became so rowdy with setting off bangs (hmm, do you think a wee dram of alcohol may have been involved?) that the authorities passed a law banning the “mischievous use of pyrotechnics.”

Fireworks 1I love fireworks! (History definitely shows that the colors and the noise clearly appeals to some sort of primitive love of fire in our brains.) How about you? Do you enjoy watching fireworks? Have you a favorite event to attend? The best display I’ve ever seen have been the marvelous NYC 4th of July extravaganza over the east River. It’s absolutely spectacular, especially when seen from the Queens side with the NYC skyline in the background. I’ll be watching it tonight, though unfortunately this year it will just be on TV. Happy Birthday, America!
   

70 thoughts on “A Bang of a Birthday!”

  1. Great history of fireworks, Cara/Andrea! Though at this precise moment, that whipped cream/blueberry/strawberry cake looks even more interesting. *G*
    My favorite firewooks display was one year when we booked a room in a hotel that’s right on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where the very fine city fireworks display takes place. We had a fine dinner with friends, then all adjourned to our room to watch the display through avery larger, gorgeous windows. Such fun!

    Reply
  2. Great history of fireworks, Cara/Andrea! Though at this precise moment, that whipped cream/blueberry/strawberry cake looks even more interesting. *G*
    My favorite firewooks display was one year when we booked a room in a hotel that’s right on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where the very fine city fireworks display takes place. We had a fine dinner with friends, then all adjourned to our room to watch the display through avery larger, gorgeous windows. Such fun!

    Reply
  3. Great history of fireworks, Cara/Andrea! Though at this precise moment, that whipped cream/blueberry/strawberry cake looks even more interesting. *G*
    My favorite firewooks display was one year when we booked a room in a hotel that’s right on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where the very fine city fireworks display takes place. We had a fine dinner with friends, then all adjourned to our room to watch the display through avery larger, gorgeous windows. Such fun!

    Reply
  4. Great history of fireworks, Cara/Andrea! Though at this precise moment, that whipped cream/blueberry/strawberry cake looks even more interesting. *G*
    My favorite firewooks display was one year when we booked a room in a hotel that’s right on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where the very fine city fireworks display takes place. We had a fine dinner with friends, then all adjourned to our room to watch the display through avery larger, gorgeous windows. Such fun!

    Reply
  5. Great history of fireworks, Cara/Andrea! Though at this precise moment, that whipped cream/blueberry/strawberry cake looks even more interesting. *G*
    My favorite firewooks display was one year when we booked a room in a hotel that’s right on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where the very fine city fireworks display takes place. We had a fine dinner with friends, then all adjourned to our room to watch the display through avery larger, gorgeous windows. Such fun!

    Reply
  6. Sounds wonderful, Mary Jo! I’m a sucker for ANY display of fireworks. Clearly am easily amused!
    Alas, the chef at our club beach party did NOT do the the flag cake at this year’s party. But the star spangled cupcakes were an creditable alternative.

    Reply
  7. Sounds wonderful, Mary Jo! I’m a sucker for ANY display of fireworks. Clearly am easily amused!
    Alas, the chef at our club beach party did NOT do the the flag cake at this year’s party. But the star spangled cupcakes were an creditable alternative.

    Reply
  8. Sounds wonderful, Mary Jo! I’m a sucker for ANY display of fireworks. Clearly am easily amused!
    Alas, the chef at our club beach party did NOT do the the flag cake at this year’s party. But the star spangled cupcakes were an creditable alternative.

    Reply
  9. Sounds wonderful, Mary Jo! I’m a sucker for ANY display of fireworks. Clearly am easily amused!
    Alas, the chef at our club beach party did NOT do the the flag cake at this year’s party. But the star spangled cupcakes were an creditable alternative.

    Reply
  10. Sounds wonderful, Mary Jo! I’m a sucker for ANY display of fireworks. Clearly am easily amused!
    Alas, the chef at our club beach party did NOT do the the flag cake at this year’s party. But the star spangled cupcakes were an creditable alternative.

    Reply
  11. I love to watch fireworks but I don’t like those that do nothing but make noise. As a small child I was terrified by the noise of firecrackers. I eventually got over it but I never developed an appreciation for the noise makers.
    However, professional displays are another matter. Like our friends form Renaissance Italy, I too, think they are works of art, especially when coordinated with music. I haven’t been to a live display in about 10 years. At my age it is easier to watch from my porch or watch on TV.
    Most memorable was New Year’s Eve 1999 – watching displays on TV from all over the world as each time zone entered 2000. I was especially impressed with the display at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

    Reply
  12. I love to watch fireworks but I don’t like those that do nothing but make noise. As a small child I was terrified by the noise of firecrackers. I eventually got over it but I never developed an appreciation for the noise makers.
    However, professional displays are another matter. Like our friends form Renaissance Italy, I too, think they are works of art, especially when coordinated with music. I haven’t been to a live display in about 10 years. At my age it is easier to watch from my porch or watch on TV.
    Most memorable was New Year’s Eve 1999 – watching displays on TV from all over the world as each time zone entered 2000. I was especially impressed with the display at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

    Reply
  13. I love to watch fireworks but I don’t like those that do nothing but make noise. As a small child I was terrified by the noise of firecrackers. I eventually got over it but I never developed an appreciation for the noise makers.
    However, professional displays are another matter. Like our friends form Renaissance Italy, I too, think they are works of art, especially when coordinated with music. I haven’t been to a live display in about 10 years. At my age it is easier to watch from my porch or watch on TV.
    Most memorable was New Year’s Eve 1999 – watching displays on TV from all over the world as each time zone entered 2000. I was especially impressed with the display at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

    Reply
  14. I love to watch fireworks but I don’t like those that do nothing but make noise. As a small child I was terrified by the noise of firecrackers. I eventually got over it but I never developed an appreciation for the noise makers.
    However, professional displays are another matter. Like our friends form Renaissance Italy, I too, think they are works of art, especially when coordinated with music. I haven’t been to a live display in about 10 years. At my age it is easier to watch from my porch or watch on TV.
    Most memorable was New Year’s Eve 1999 – watching displays on TV from all over the world as each time zone entered 2000. I was especially impressed with the display at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

    Reply
  15. I love to watch fireworks but I don’t like those that do nothing but make noise. As a small child I was terrified by the noise of firecrackers. I eventually got over it but I never developed an appreciation for the noise makers.
    However, professional displays are another matter. Like our friends form Renaissance Italy, I too, think they are works of art, especially when coordinated with music. I haven’t been to a live display in about 10 years. At my age it is easier to watch from my porch or watch on TV.
    Most memorable was New Year’s Eve 1999 – watching displays on TV from all over the world as each time zone entered 2000. I was especially impressed with the display at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

    Reply
  16. Mary, it’s interesting—I think some people are “noise” people and some aren’t. Usually I’m not a fan of loud noises 9the introvert here) but for some reason I love the bangs with fireworks,
    But also totally agree that the colors and shapes coordinated with music is fabulous. That Millenium show with all the different fireworks around the word was amazing. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    Reply
  17. Mary, it’s interesting—I think some people are “noise” people and some aren’t. Usually I’m not a fan of loud noises 9the introvert here) but for some reason I love the bangs with fireworks,
    But also totally agree that the colors and shapes coordinated with music is fabulous. That Millenium show with all the different fireworks around the word was amazing. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    Reply
  18. Mary, it’s interesting—I think some people are “noise” people and some aren’t. Usually I’m not a fan of loud noises 9the introvert here) but for some reason I love the bangs with fireworks,
    But also totally agree that the colors and shapes coordinated with music is fabulous. That Millenium show with all the different fireworks around the word was amazing. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    Reply
  19. Mary, it’s interesting—I think some people are “noise” people and some aren’t. Usually I’m not a fan of loud noises 9the introvert here) but for some reason I love the bangs with fireworks,
    But also totally agree that the colors and shapes coordinated with music is fabulous. That Millenium show with all the different fireworks around the word was amazing. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    Reply
  20. Mary, it’s interesting—I think some people are “noise” people and some aren’t. Usually I’m not a fan of loud noises 9the introvert here) but for some reason I love the bangs with fireworks,
    But also totally agree that the colors and shapes coordinated with music is fabulous. That Millenium show with all the different fireworks around the word was amazing. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    Reply
  21. Like Mary T, I have gotten too old to attend firework displays. We live about 45 miles north of our state capital where there is a riverside fireworks display every year, but we have never gone to see it. There is also an annual display here each year in the university stadium which we have never seen. I do miss them, but (sadly) I choose my health over the displays.
    When I was a child (in the 1930s) home fireworks were still legal. I have found memories of those 4th of July celebrations, with sparklers and firework displays but an absence at our house of firecrackers. They were beautiful and fun. But I do agree that they were unsafe — even the sparklers were dangerous. I was badly burn on two different 4th of July from an improperly discarded sparkler.
    I am glad that most of the United States now celebrates with professional displays.

    Reply
  22. Like Mary T, I have gotten too old to attend firework displays. We live about 45 miles north of our state capital where there is a riverside fireworks display every year, but we have never gone to see it. There is also an annual display here each year in the university stadium which we have never seen. I do miss them, but (sadly) I choose my health over the displays.
    When I was a child (in the 1930s) home fireworks were still legal. I have found memories of those 4th of July celebrations, with sparklers and firework displays but an absence at our house of firecrackers. They were beautiful and fun. But I do agree that they were unsafe — even the sparklers were dangerous. I was badly burn on two different 4th of July from an improperly discarded sparkler.
    I am glad that most of the United States now celebrates with professional displays.

    Reply
  23. Like Mary T, I have gotten too old to attend firework displays. We live about 45 miles north of our state capital where there is a riverside fireworks display every year, but we have never gone to see it. There is also an annual display here each year in the university stadium which we have never seen. I do miss them, but (sadly) I choose my health over the displays.
    When I was a child (in the 1930s) home fireworks were still legal. I have found memories of those 4th of July celebrations, with sparklers and firework displays but an absence at our house of firecrackers. They were beautiful and fun. But I do agree that they were unsafe — even the sparklers were dangerous. I was badly burn on two different 4th of July from an improperly discarded sparkler.
    I am glad that most of the United States now celebrates with professional displays.

    Reply
  24. Like Mary T, I have gotten too old to attend firework displays. We live about 45 miles north of our state capital where there is a riverside fireworks display every year, but we have never gone to see it. There is also an annual display here each year in the university stadium which we have never seen. I do miss them, but (sadly) I choose my health over the displays.
    When I was a child (in the 1930s) home fireworks were still legal. I have found memories of those 4th of July celebrations, with sparklers and firework displays but an absence at our house of firecrackers. They were beautiful and fun. But I do agree that they were unsafe — even the sparklers were dangerous. I was badly burn on two different 4th of July from an improperly discarded sparkler.
    I am glad that most of the United States now celebrates with professional displays.

    Reply
  25. Like Mary T, I have gotten too old to attend firework displays. We live about 45 miles north of our state capital where there is a riverside fireworks display every year, but we have never gone to see it. There is also an annual display here each year in the university stadium which we have never seen. I do miss them, but (sadly) I choose my health over the displays.
    When I was a child (in the 1930s) home fireworks were still legal. I have found memories of those 4th of July celebrations, with sparklers and firework displays but an absence at our house of firecrackers. They were beautiful and fun. But I do agree that they were unsafe — even the sparklers were dangerous. I was badly burn on two different 4th of July from an improperly discarded sparkler.
    I am glad that most of the United States now celebrates with professional displays.

    Reply
  26. Sue, the danger aspect is the downside to pyrotechnics—they are incredibly dangerous. So sorry about your injuries, and think you are very wise to skip it all now. Even if it’s not quite the same, watching on television can be great fun too, and much safer!

    Reply
  27. Sue, the danger aspect is the downside to pyrotechnics—they are incredibly dangerous. So sorry about your injuries, and think you are very wise to skip it all now. Even if it’s not quite the same, watching on television can be great fun too, and much safer!

    Reply
  28. Sue, the danger aspect is the downside to pyrotechnics—they are incredibly dangerous. So sorry about your injuries, and think you are very wise to skip it all now. Even if it’s not quite the same, watching on television can be great fun too, and much safer!

    Reply
  29. Sue, the danger aspect is the downside to pyrotechnics—they are incredibly dangerous. So sorry about your injuries, and think you are very wise to skip it all now. Even if it’s not quite the same, watching on television can be great fun too, and much safer!

    Reply
  30. Sue, the danger aspect is the downside to pyrotechnics—they are incredibly dangerous. So sorry about your injuries, and think you are very wise to skip it all now. Even if it’s not quite the same, watching on television can be great fun too, and much safer!

    Reply
  31. Well, the big displays are over and the cats have come out from under the bed. Nice blog, I especially enjoyed the pictures.
    But there’s more to the Independence Day story, told on Today I Found Out (http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/07/the-signers-of-the-declaration-of-independence-did-so-on-august-2nd-1776-not-july-4th/). Notable here, John Adams wrote that letter, to his wife, on July 3 proclaiming not July 4 but _July 2_ as the day that would be celebrated through history. It seems the Declaration was PASSED (”engrossed”) on July 2 and ANNOUNCED on July 4, but no-one actually SIGNED it “for many days after.” This seems to be one of those cases where history got simplified into legend.
    And I’m thinking of another spectacular display: When Prinny’s Temple of Accord imploded and burned itself down, memorialized in more than one Regency novel.

    Reply
  32. Well, the big displays are over and the cats have come out from under the bed. Nice blog, I especially enjoyed the pictures.
    But there’s more to the Independence Day story, told on Today I Found Out (http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/07/the-signers-of-the-declaration-of-independence-did-so-on-august-2nd-1776-not-july-4th/). Notable here, John Adams wrote that letter, to his wife, on July 3 proclaiming not July 4 but _July 2_ as the day that would be celebrated through history. It seems the Declaration was PASSED (”engrossed”) on July 2 and ANNOUNCED on July 4, but no-one actually SIGNED it “for many days after.” This seems to be one of those cases where history got simplified into legend.
    And I’m thinking of another spectacular display: When Prinny’s Temple of Accord imploded and burned itself down, memorialized in more than one Regency novel.

    Reply
  33. Well, the big displays are over and the cats have come out from under the bed. Nice blog, I especially enjoyed the pictures.
    But there’s more to the Independence Day story, told on Today I Found Out (http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/07/the-signers-of-the-declaration-of-independence-did-so-on-august-2nd-1776-not-july-4th/). Notable here, John Adams wrote that letter, to his wife, on July 3 proclaiming not July 4 but _July 2_ as the day that would be celebrated through history. It seems the Declaration was PASSED (”engrossed”) on July 2 and ANNOUNCED on July 4, but no-one actually SIGNED it “for many days after.” This seems to be one of those cases where history got simplified into legend.
    And I’m thinking of another spectacular display: When Prinny’s Temple of Accord imploded and burned itself down, memorialized in more than one Regency novel.

    Reply
  34. Well, the big displays are over and the cats have come out from under the bed. Nice blog, I especially enjoyed the pictures.
    But there’s more to the Independence Day story, told on Today I Found Out (http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/07/the-signers-of-the-declaration-of-independence-did-so-on-august-2nd-1776-not-july-4th/). Notable here, John Adams wrote that letter, to his wife, on July 3 proclaiming not July 4 but _July 2_ as the day that would be celebrated through history. It seems the Declaration was PASSED (”engrossed”) on July 2 and ANNOUNCED on July 4, but no-one actually SIGNED it “for many days after.” This seems to be one of those cases where history got simplified into legend.
    And I’m thinking of another spectacular display: When Prinny’s Temple of Accord imploded and burned itself down, memorialized in more than one Regency novel.

    Reply
  35. Well, the big displays are over and the cats have come out from under the bed. Nice blog, I especially enjoyed the pictures.
    But there’s more to the Independence Day story, told on Today I Found Out (http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/07/the-signers-of-the-declaration-of-independence-did-so-on-august-2nd-1776-not-july-4th/). Notable here, John Adams wrote that letter, to his wife, on July 3 proclaiming not July 4 but _July 2_ as the day that would be celebrated through history. It seems the Declaration was PASSED (”engrossed”) on July 2 and ANNOUNCED on July 4, but no-one actually SIGNED it “for many days after.” This seems to be one of those cases where history got simplified into legend.
    And I’m thinking of another spectacular display: When Prinny’s Temple of Accord imploded and burned itself down, memorialized in more than one Regency novel.

    Reply
  36. I once saw a fireworks display where the fireworks made pictures and not just bursts of noise and color. I don’t think the exact date matters. July 4th was chosen so that works just as well.
    What I find amusing is that the 1812 overture has become a staple at 4th of July concerts- it is perfect music for fireworks and the artillery adds to it- but the music has nothing to do with the USA.

    Reply
  37. I once saw a fireworks display where the fireworks made pictures and not just bursts of noise and color. I don’t think the exact date matters. July 4th was chosen so that works just as well.
    What I find amusing is that the 1812 overture has become a staple at 4th of July concerts- it is perfect music for fireworks and the artillery adds to it- but the music has nothing to do with the USA.

    Reply
  38. I once saw a fireworks display where the fireworks made pictures and not just bursts of noise and color. I don’t think the exact date matters. July 4th was chosen so that works just as well.
    What I find amusing is that the 1812 overture has become a staple at 4th of July concerts- it is perfect music for fireworks and the artillery adds to it- but the music has nothing to do with the USA.

    Reply
  39. I once saw a fireworks display where the fireworks made pictures and not just bursts of noise and color. I don’t think the exact date matters. July 4th was chosen so that works just as well.
    What I find amusing is that the 1812 overture has become a staple at 4th of July concerts- it is perfect music for fireworks and the artillery adds to it- but the music has nothing to do with the USA.

    Reply
  40. I once saw a fireworks display where the fireworks made pictures and not just bursts of noise and color. I don’t think the exact date matters. July 4th was chosen so that works just as well.
    What I find amusing is that the 1812 overture has become a staple at 4th of July concerts- it is perfect music for fireworks and the artillery adds to it- but the music has nothing to do with the USA.

    Reply

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