Fireworks have a long history dating back to 7th century China, where the first fireworks were purportedly invented. Since then, fireworks have become a staple in celebrations throughout the world. On special nights, the sky is often lit with rainbow explosions and massive blasts commemorating festivities.
For Americans, the Fourth of July is the most important holiday for our nation. It signifies our separation from England, becoming our own sovereign nation. To celebrate this milestone in American history, communities throughout the country will celebrate with picnics, get-togethers, and of course firework displays.
But where did fireworks come from and why are they so popular for celebrations? Here's a look into the important history of fireworks, as well as ways to stay safe during your Fourth of July festivities.
While we can't be certain that gunpowder and fireworks weren't invented or discovered elsewhere, there's a story of a Chinese cook once spilling saltpeter – an ingredient used as a flavor salt – onto an open flame. He noticed the flame burning with an intense, bright, and beautiful color.
Saltpeter, along with sulfur and charcoal, is a common ingredient in gunpowder as well. So naturally some 7th century pyrotechnicians discovered that when you enclosed this concoction in a bamboo tube, it wouldn't just burn – it'd explode. From that moment, fireworks were born.
They were originally used to celebrate the coming of a new year. At these celebrations, they set off fireworks to scare away evil demons and encourage good luck throughout the year. It wasn't long before fireworks were being used in many different forms of celebrations throughout Asia.
Fireworks made their way to Europe by the 13th century, thanks in part to the Crusades. By the 15th century, fireworks were incorporated in celebrations. In fact, there are a number of paintings and drawings depicting fireworks exploding over the Thames River in England.
From Europe, immigrants took fireworks to the new world hopeful to retain certain customs and traditions. By the 17th century, Americans were familiar with the use of fireworks to indicate special occasions and grand festivals.
In 1731, fireworks were actually banned in Rhode Island for being disruptive after several pranksters insisted on continually setting off fireworks.
One of our founding fathers, John Adams, wrote on July 3rd, 1776, "I am apt to believe that [today] will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other…"
Starting in 1777, six years before the American Revolution would end, our nation celebrated its first Independence Day – fireworks and all. Since then, it has become an American tradition to gather together, salute our nation, and enjoy beautiful firework displays.
You can buy and use "ground and hand-held sparkling devices," "novelties," and "toy caps" in Pennsylvania. These "non-fireworks" don't leave the ground or make loud "boom" noises. They are also the only types allowed to be sold from tents, stands, and stores not licensed by the Department of Agriculture.
If you are a Pennsylvania resident, you can only purchase and use Consumer Fireworks with a display permit issued by the municipality where the display will take place.
If you are not a Pennsylvania resident, you can purchase Consumer Fireworks from an outlet licensed by the PA Department of Agriculture if you provide proof of out-of-state residency and transport the fireworks directly out of state.
Any law enforcement officer having jurisdiction can make an arrest and confiscate fireworks under Pennsylvania's Fireworks Law. If you suspect a violation of the law, you can contact your local Police Department.
Nothing spoils a celebration faster than an accident that cause an injury. Always be safe when handling fireworks, especially around children. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand if you plan to set off your own fireworks this year.
If you're ever injured in an accident, our law firm is here to help – 24/7. We're open on weekends and holidays. Just give us a call.