9 Fireworks Facts to Blow Your Mind

A tradition older than apple pie and more dangerous than hot dogs.


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1. The color of a firework is determined by the elements present. Iron creates golden hues, Lithium produces red, and copper is used to achieve the elusive blue. Chemical compounds are combined with fuels and oxidizers to give a breathtaking splash of color in the sky that is really just idiosyncratic air pollution.

An 18th-century illustration of Chinese fireworks, Wikimedia Commons

2. Unsurprisingly, the first fireworks were ignited in China between 600 and 900 A.D. These early pyrotechnics were bamboo shoots stuffed with saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur, and they were probably used to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the igniter. Although this ancient Chinese secret spread to the West in no time, China is still the world leader in production of fireworks.

A 1911 Spearmint ad pushing for the “saner” option, The Saturday Evening Post

3. 2015 saw the most American firework-related injuries that resulted in emergency room visits so far in the new millennium – about 11,900. Only about one percent of those injuries were sustained by people 65 years old and up.


4. Sparklers can burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is cute to use camera effects to spell a sentiment or draw a smiley with the things, but perhaps it would be wise to exercise discernment before handing a child what amounts to a blow torch.

5. Dogs and anxious people alike can take refuge in Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. These three states ban the sale of all consumer fireworks.

6. Fireworks are used to celebrate different holidays around the world. In the United Kingdom, Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated on November 5th with pyrotechnic shows. Bastille Day in France — July 14th — sees the Eiffel Tower illuminated with an explosive display as well.

7. The world’s largest fireworks display took place during a downpour. 810,904 fireworks were set off at New Year celebrations in Ciudad de Victoria Bocaue Bulacan, Philippines on January 1, 2016. This record is sure to change as soon as another location decides to take the title. Previous record-holders include Norway and Dubai.

1927, The Saturday Evening Post

8. Consumer fireworks have really taken off in the 21st Century. In weight, we’re blowing up more than double what we did in 2000: about 244 million pounds in 2016.

9. The first Independence Day in 1777 saw fireworks in Philadelphia and Boston. John Adams, in a letter to his wife in 1776, predicted that July 2nd would be a celebrated holiday, with “illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” Although Adams was two days off, he was dead on in regards to nationwide “illuminations” that seem to grow brighter each year.

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  1. Gee Nicholas, I did NOT KNOW these facts about fireworks before reading this article. One really does have to give Wrigley’s 1911 Gum an ‘A’ for effort in advertising their Spearmint Gum as the intelligent alternative to fireworks.

    Also the 1927 ad of fighting preventable fire with common sense. As we all know, there’s almost no common sense today, even in the most basic aspects of American life. It’s one of the reasons everything’s so (I’ll be nice) messed up. It is, and we both know it. If Leno was still on, and asking people what common sense means in one of his Jaywalking segments, they wouldn’t know.

    We’re blowing up MORE than double the amount of 2000: not a shock. I wonder what percentage of the credit for THAT should go to the likes of Michael Bay—who does nothing else. Wouldn’t it be something if he (somehow) wound up in the middle of one of his own pyrotechnic film stunts on the set? He’d go out in a blast of glory, transforming himself doing what he loves most!


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