Did you ever wonder why we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks? Fireworks have been used to celebrate special occasions for centuries, long before the American Revolution. They are originally a Chinese invention. According to one account, a cook in China mixed charcoal, sulfur and potassium nitrate, which he then stuffed into sticks of bamboo and tossed into the fire, where the whole thing exploded with a loud bang.
The noise was so frightening that those in attendance thought perhaps the popping sticks could be used to startle away evil spirits. The noisemakers soon became standard at Chinese weddings and religious rituals. Marco Polo is credited with bringing the concept to Italy in 1292, and the practice spread throughout Europe. Early American colonists brought fireworks to this country in the 1600s.
Those early fireworks were not nearly as elaborate as we enjoy today; the colors were limited to two: orange (made from black powder) and white (made from a metallic powder). Still, we know our founding fathers enjoyed them, as firecrackers were part of the first Independence Day commemoration in 1777.
In fact, in a famous letter founding father and second President John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, he states how the holiday deserves to be celebrated with "illuminations," that is, fireworks. "[The day] will be most memorable ... in the History of America," he wrote. "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding Generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by Solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations [fireworks] from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more." John Adams loved celebrating the Fourth of July. Interestingly, he died on July 4, 1826 -- the 50th anniversary of American independence.