“start stuffing the volatile substance into bamboo shoots that were then thrown into the fire to produce a loud blast. The first fireworks were born.”
As the technology behind fireworks developed over the centuries, it was the Europeans that took them to the next level. Fireworks used to be really drab and a whole lot quieter than they are now. We can thank the Italian chemists for finding ways to create more vibrant reds, greens, blues, and yellows, as noted by the History of fireworks.
When electrical energy was harnessed it became possible to obtain pure magnesium and aluminum (through electrolysis). This made for brighter burning fireworks. The discovery of flash powder (a potent form of gun powder: aluminum powder mixed with an oxidizer) led to the advent of louder fireworks.
The Americans didn’t want to be left out of the party. They started using fireworks any chance they could get – and at any time of day or night. Things quickly got out of control.
However, in the early 1900’s concerned citizens who just couldn’t take it any longer formed the Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise (SSUN). Allowable noise-making times were set. Anyone bold enough to violate these regulations would be fined anywhere from $2.00-$25.00 USD (ref. The New York Times, December 23, 1906).
Fortunately for some - or unfortunately for all the pyros, the SSUN set the path for noise bylaws that are enforced in most big cities today. New Years' is one day everyone gets a free pass.
My illustration this week is of course on fireworks. The use of red (from Chinese culture) symbolizes good fortune and joy. You can find other artist’s illustrations on my Pinterest New Year’s illustration board.
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