When you picture a 4th of July celebration, it is hard to imagine no fireworks being involved. Fireworks have become a quintessential part of Independence Day celebrations, whether just at home or at a large-scale event. Cities often hold their own celebrations with large fireworks shows, as do many events like sports games and amusement parks. Just like red, white, and blue, fireworks have become a symbol of the holiday. But have you ever wondered where the tradition started?
Well, before it actually became a practiced tradition, they were seen in a premonition by John Adams.
John Adams on July 2, 1776, wrote a letter to his wife detailing the Constitutional Congress’ vote for independence. In the letter, he expressed his visions of the day being celebrated for generations and generations to come. He detailed the traditions we would practice to celebrate the day, saying there would be “guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations,” among many other celebratory activities.
The first time in which we saw explosives used to celebrate Independence Day was actually the year it was born. In Pennsylvania, ships lined the harbor, and the cannons launched a 13-gun salute to honor the 13 colonies. A newspaper at the time, The Pennsylvania Evening Post published an article describing the sight as “a grand exhibition of fireworks.” Simultaneously, in Boston, the Sons of Liberty put on their own fireworks show over the Boston Common.
Furthermore, after the War of 1812, Independence Day celebrations grew in popularity and fireworks were more accessible. Cannons and gunfire had been used in combination very frequently with fireworks up to this point as well until they were ultimately phased out because of safety concerns.
While fireworks are a cornerstone of the holiday, they are still incredibly dangerous to use.
Over the course of the holiday’s history, fireworks have been given more restrictions. Massachusetts has set a statewide ban on consumer fireworks. Several other cities have citywide bans. Some restrictions are in place because of accidents happening. People have been known to seriously injure themselves or others when they light off fireworks and mishandle them. Other areas have set restrictions due to the environment around them. In California, there are many areas that have fireworks bans in place due to being a fire zone.
Overall fireworks consumption in the United States reaches a high every July 4th. As said by historian James Heintze, “the American Fourth of July is the greatest event the maker of firecrackers knows.”