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A Historical Overview of Fireworks by Andrew Stratton

A Historical Overview of Fireworks by
Article Posted: 02/04/2015
Article Views: 124
Articles Written: 5522
Word Count: 514
Article Votes: 0
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A Historical Overview of Fireworks

The history of fireworks began in China approximately 2,000 years ago. Although their precise origin is unclear, it's possible that the Chinese accidentally discovered the explosions by burning bamboo reeds. As air inside the hollow reeds expanded with heat, the reeds exploded.

Ancient Uses

The Chinese used fireworks to ward off ghosts and evil spirits, whom they assumed would be frightened by the bright sparks and loud noises. An ancient Chinese custom involves throwing green bamboo reeds onto coals during the Chinese New Year to frighten an evil spirit named Nian away. The Chinese believed that this act would ensure prosperity and happiness throughout the coming year. Eventually, Europeans became involved, and they were the first to connect these splendid sound and light displays with celebrations.

Further Development

Fireworks continued to evolve with additional pyrotechnic discoveries. Various mixtures of chemicals resulted in a rudimentary gunpowder discovery, likely occurring accidentally. After mixing a specific chemical combination together and heating it, an explosion resulted that involved bright lights and loud bangs. The Chinese were intrigued by their discoveries and continued to explore various combinations of chemicals to refine the explosive gunpowder mixture. They also progressed to inserting the chemical combinations (gun powder) into hollow bamboo reeds and then throwing the reeds into a fire to ignite them. As the chemicals burned, they produced more powerful explosions and impressive fiery light displays.

Soon, the Chinese discovered that they could alter the chemical formulations to produce faster burns and louder explosions. The method used to ignite the gunpowder could also change how it exploded, whether it was ignited in a confined container or a container with an open end.

The Expansion

Marco Polo was the first to introduce fireworks to Europe. With this introduction, Europeans quickly transferred the invention to military advances. Eventually, cannons and guns were developed using the black gunpowder. Chemists continued to work on the gunpowder formulations to enable larger and stronger explosions. Cannon balls filled with gunpowder became commonplace, enabling the medieval military to begin lofting these bombs at their enemies.

Italian Influence

The Italians approached fireworks with a different intent. Instead of thinking of them as a military weapon, they saw them as a form of art. Eventually, the Italians developed aerial shells, which they launched high into the air for impressive explosions. Fountain displays remained on the ground to shoot sparks all around just like a water fountain. As Europeans witnesses these controlled displays of fire, the trend of using pyrotechnics for celebratory displays soon took off. Fire masters or "green men" were the pyrotechnic experts charged with the responsibility of handling the explosives safely.

Modern day pyrotechnics involves vivid displays of virtually every color. New technological advances have enabled the introduction of louder bangs and deeper and brighter colors, burning hotter and faster than previous explosions. Knowing the history of these pyrotechnics can help you appreciate their humble beginnings and their evolution throughout time to become the celebratory displays they are today.

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