The History of Fireworks

In her new book, Dana Meachen Rau tells us that fireworks started about a thousand years ago with the Chinese people. The plan was to make medicine, but instead gunpowder and fireworks were developed. They mixed different chemicals and discovered that one mixture flamed, smoked and made a loud noise when lit with fire. It became known as gunpowder. Flaming arrows, fireballs and bullets followed the invention of gunpowder. The Chinese made rockets with gunpowder that shot into the sky and exploded with showers of sparks. This was the beginning of early fireworks, and the colors were only yellow and orange.

The Chinese believed the loud sounds scared away evil spirits, and they started using fireworks at weddings, holidays and parties. Explorers and soldiers from Europe went to China in the 1200s to see fireworks for the first time. They took some home and opened many fireworks factories for next few hundred years. England started using them in the 1600s, and America started celebrating Independence Day with fireworks in 1777. 

Special thanks to China on a research project that went astray, but turned out to be a good thing for the world. 

Check out Fireworks by Dana Meachen Rau.

--Deborah P. Turner, Children's Librarian