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This Month in Business History

Fireworks: Beyond the Fourth of July

Keating, Maureen, photographer [Fireworks lighting up the night sky near the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.] [4 July 1995]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

July 4th marks the founding of the United States, and for many the day would not be complete without the evening fireworks celebration. If you've ever wondered about the origins of this custom, fireworks appear to have been associated with this day since the founding of the republic. John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife on July 3, 1776, about the declaration: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations [fireworks] from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."1

First invented in ancient China, fireworks made it to Europe in the 13th century and were later brought to the Americas by the European settlers.2 Although fireworks go off on various celebratory occasions, like the New Year's Eve, sports events, and festivals, they are mainly associated with celebrating the birth of the nation. Over time they have become a quite elaborate and mesmerizing show not to miss. Aside from the big fireworks shows, many Americans love putting up their own local fireworks shows. Almost all states allow "consumer" fireworks but regulations vary from state to state one what is allowed, so it is advised to find out what is legal in your state.

Below are listed selected sources for locating information on the pyrotechnics or fireworks industry. If you have any further questions, please Ask A Librarian.

Print Resources

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Library of Congress Digital Resources

The following resources have been created or digitized by the Library of Congress and can be used to find out more about the people and events of the day.

Internet Resources

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  1. "John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776." Founders Online National Archives. Back to text
  2. History of Fireworks. American Pyrotechnics Association. Back to text