25 Apr, 2023
7 minutes

The History Of Modern-Day Fireworks

The best way to finish a celebration? With fireworks, of course. But where did these popular party favours come from?

Humans have enjoyed lighting up the sky with fireworks for centuries, and this celebration is revered worldwide. From Europe to Asia, fireworks have a rich history and have completed festivities in different continents and cultures.

Today, we’re stepping back in time to explore the history of modern-day fireworks. We’ll be discussing their origins and evolution. So, if you’re curious about these spectacular illuminations, keep reading. You’ll be clued up on how fireworks were created and spread worldwide in no time.

What Is A Firework?

This might seem straightforward to some, but we’ll quickly define fireworks before diving in. If you’re already an expert, scroll down to skip to the history.

Fireworks are pyrotechnic devices that create a visual and auditory show when set on fire. You can find show-stopping fireworks in all sizes, colours, and shapes, allowing you to get imaginative with your fireworks displays.

These pyrotechnic wonders are a staple for parties, festivals, sporting events, public holidays, and more. If it’s a celebration, expect an impressive fireworks display. However, always check where you can set off fireworks before going for it.

Who Created Fireworks?

Fireworks are by no means a new creation. Nope! The earliest fireworks records date back to the 7th century AD Tang Dynasty—AKA Ancient China. Sources suggest these early models were accidentally created when a cook mixed common kitchen ingredients and found gunpowder.

During this period, fireworks were used for ceremonies and religious services, including scaring off evil spirits. These early fireworks were invented from gunpowder, bamboo, and paper tubes. They were then ignited with fire to produce a bright light and a deafening bang.

Unsurprisingly, fireworks became very popular in China. By the 10th century AD Song Dynasty, firework makers became creative and developed new models. These include sparklers, rockers, and fountains—designs you can still see today.

Fireworks above a stage

The Evolution Of Fireworks

Though fireworks were invented in China, other countries quickly embraced them thanks to migration and trading routes.

In the 13th century, cultures in the Middle East started to use pyrotechnic tools for celebrations and important events. Like us, they enjoyed setting off firework displays for coronations and weddings. Nothing beats them when you’re organising a night to remember.

Europe started to embrace fireworks a little later in the 14th century. But here, fireworks had a different use. Instead of parties, fireworks were used for military purposes. A loud bang is a great way to scare your enemies on the battlefield, so we’re not surprised Europeans developed a military use for the technology.

However, Europeans soon discovered the joy of fireworks shows. By the 17th and 18th centuries, fireworks were a popular addition to events and celebrations, and daring actors even used them in operas and theatres. Thanks to new chemical compounds and designs, fireworks became more complex, colourful, and extravagant during this period.

A notable historical firework show occurred in London in 1814 while celebrating the end of the Napoleonic wars. The show was organised by Gaetano Ruggeri (an Italian pyrotechnician) and was set to be a grand display over the River Thames. Sadly, the display went wrong, and a fire broke out on a nearby boat. Health and safety are no joke when it comes to fireworks!

Though tragedies occurred, the fascination with fireworks was on the rise. In the 1800s, creating new fireworks became a respected art form. With this experimentation came much-needed safety developments, such as the safety fuse. This kept more people safe and allowed for larger-scale displays where people strived for the biggest firework display yet Yipee!

Fireworks Today

As we return to the present moment, fireworks are more popular than ever and integral to countless celebrations.

From Guy Fawkes night to July 4th in the United States, people worldwide routinely gather to enjoy displays together. Fireworks are also a go-to choice for all events, and if you attend a wedding, concert, or sports game, you can expect to see these timeless features lighting up the sky.

When it comes to design, today’s fireworks are bigger, brighter, and much safer than the first iterations. Modern fireworks are made up of an oxidiser, a fuel, and a colour-producing agent. Charcoal is the most common fuel, and potassium nitrate is a popular oxidiser. Various colours are created by adding chemicals and metals into the mix.

Fun Fact: The world’s largest straight-line fireworks display was on the first of January 2022 in Abu Dhabi at the Sheikh Zayed Festival. A whopping 22,240 fireworks were lit this evening. What a way to start the new year.

Fireworks became so large and impressive that, in the modern day, international firework restrictions (including the UK's own firework limitations) were set in place to keep people safe.

A couple holding sparklers

Premium Fireworks For Your Event

Adding fireworks to your event is the best way to take your celebrations to the next level. But make sure you’re working with professional fireworks that produce the best effects while keeping you and your guests safe simultaneously.

Chorlton Fireworks is a leading UK firework supplier based in Manchester and the North West region. Our exclusive lines cover traditional fireworks and new designs. From loud, shocking options to elegant pyrotechnics, we’re on hand to ensure you can find a variety of firework designs and expert assistance from professionals. Because when it comes to fireworks, quality matters.

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