Fire in the Sky: History of Fireworks

From a secure bunker at an undisclosed location in the Pocono Mountains, Dame Aoife sends forth links about the history of the "artillery" whose echoing thunder now resounds through her abode.

Greetings my Faithful Readers!

As I write, I am surrounded by the sounds of exploding gunpowder. No, I'm not under siege. I just happen to live in a rural but high tourist area--the Pocono Mountains—and our property is sandwiched between 2 campgrounds. It being the weekend of the 4th of July, you can guess the source of my sleeplessness. And thus a links list is born!

Doing web searches on fireworks has proved interesting. I unearthed no less than 10 websites with precisely the same information—in the same words, and all with precisely the same punctuation. Shame! One of them appears below, but I can't claim the page author is the original author. However, in addition to the repeated canned history, there is some exciting and informative stuff out there as well. I hope you find it not only topical, but also interesting.

I'd like to note that fireworks are dangerous, are not for kids to handle EVER, and can damage your skin and your hearing. Exercise care! Lecture over and Mom mode off—and please enjoy these links about fireworks.

Cheers!

Aoife

Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
m/k/a Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt
Riverouge, Endless Hills, Aethelmearc

HSBC Celebration of Light
http://www.celebration-of-light.com/fireworks/history.html
(Site Excerpt) Another version of the history of fireworks credits Taoist monks with their discovery in the Far East approximately 1000 years ago. Once again, coincidence played a major role. What scientists of the day were looking for was a potion that promised immortality and eternal life. In their experiments, Taoist monks discovered that a mixture of potassium nitrate, sulfur and finely ground charcoal exploded violently while giving off a great deal of light, noise and smoke.

Nova: Fireworks!
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/fireworks/
(Site Excerpt) Welcome to the companion Web site to "Fireworks!," originally broadcast on January 29, 2002. This explosive NOVA presents the colorful history of pyrotechnics and reveals how hi-tech firing systems are transforming public displays into a dazzling, split-second science.

History of early fireworks and fire arrows
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blrockethistory.htm
(Site Excerpt) One of the first devices to successfully employ the principles essential to rocket flight was a wooden bird. The writings of Aulus Gellius, a Roman, tell a story of a Greek named Archytas who lived in the city of Tarentum, now a part of southern Italy. Somewhere around the year 400 B.C., Archytas mystified and amused the citizens of Tarentum by flying a pigeon made of wood. Escaping steam propelled the bird suspended on wires. The pigeon used the action-reaction principle, which was not stated as a scientific law until the 17th century.

American Pyrotechnic Association Directory of State Fireworks Laws
http://www.americanpyro.com/State%20Laws%20(main)/statelaws.html

Fireworks University: History of Fireworks
http://www.fireworks.com/safety/fireworks-history.asp
(Site Excerpt) A Chinese monk named Li Tian, who lived near the city of Liu Yang in Hunan Province, is credited with the invention of firecrackers about 1,000 years ago. The Chinese people celebrate the invention of the firecracker every April 18 by offering sacrifices to Li Tian. During the Song Dynasty, the local people established a temple to worship Li Tian.

Pennsic 32 Fireworks (Elizabethan Fireworks!)
Photos by Phillip C. Reed
http://www.dnaco.net/~preed/fireworks/1/1.html

Early Rockets and Gunpowder - How Fireworks Work
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blrocketfirework.htm
(Site Excerpt) A fuse (cotton twine coated with gunpowder) is lit by a match or by a "punk" (a wooden stick with a coal-like red-glowing tip). This fuse burns rapidly into the core of the rocket where it ignites the gunpowder walls of the interior core. One might think that the fuse would burn out once inside of the core, due to the lack of surrounding air but the chemistry of gunpowder solves this point.

C et En: Science and Technology: What's that stuff: Fireworks
http://pubs.acs.org/cen/whatstuff/stuff/7927sci3.html
(Site Excerpt) Gunpowder made its way to Europe, probably during the early 1200s. During the Middle Ages, gunpowder-based creations--the precursor to modern fireworks--were limited to booms and a few sparkles, aided by a few iron filings or some copper or zinc. The repertoire of colors was that found in most campfires: oranges, yellows, and the occasional white-hot.

Fireworks UK: Festivals of Light
http://www.fireworks.co.uk/heritage/history.html
(Site Excerpt)In the United Kingdom November 5th is associated with Guy Fawkes, and the conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. In fact it is really a new format for a much more ancient tradition: one with its roots in the old pagan year which started on November 1, a date that also marked the first day of winter. Bonfires were lit, torches carried in procession and sacrifices made to drive away evil influences and uphold the fertility of the world.

The History of Fireworks
http://www.chemsoc.org/exemplarchem/entries/2004/icl_Gondhia/history.html
(Site Excerpt) Before long, the knowledge of fireworks began to spread to the west. It is believed that Marco Polo on one of his many trips to China transported this invention to the Middle East where European Crusaders brought it to England. An English Scholar by the name of Roger Bacon (1214-1294) was one of the first Europeans to study gunpowder and write about it. He wrote "..... if you light it you will get thunder and lightening if you know the trick......." and realised that it was the Salt Peter (KNO3) that was the driving force behind the explosion.

Stefan's Florilegium
http://www.florilegium.org/
You may find interesting: blackpowder-msg