MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s an Independence Day tradition — as soon as it’s dark out, our skies light up. The American Pyrotechnics Association estimates there will be 16,000 fireworks shows across the country around the July Fourth holiday.
So, why do we celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks? Good Question.
We’ve been celebrating America’s birthday with fireworks for almost as long as our independence. John Adams is credited with coming up with the idea one year before it happened. On July 3, 1776 – one day after the Continental Congress voted for independence, Adams wrote a letter to his wife that said the anniversary of July should be commemorated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
According to Fourth of July historian James Heintze, Congress authorized quite the fireworks show in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777. It started and ended with 13 rockets. Boston did its own show that day as well.
For the most part, very early fireworks were repurposed military munitions that reportedly made their way to Europe, and ultimately to the US, via China.
In the 1700s, they weren’t complex or all that colorful. Some cities used them to celebrate the Fourth, while others didn’t want them for fear of fire.
By the 1830s, chemists figured out how to the get more colors in the pyrotechnics, the Star-Spangled Banner started becoming popular – and the rest is history.