BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – On the fourth of July, nighttime skies across America become backdrops for dazzling displays of bright colors and glittering works of art. 

Americans have reportedly been toying with fireworks since 1608.

But where did these spectacular explosions originate? And how did they make their way into the U.S.A? 

Where fireworks likely originated 

Most historians agree that the earliest forms of fireworks were created nearly 2,000 years ago, in China.

It was 200 B.C. and China was under the rule of the Han Dynasty when people began to roast bamboo stalks until they became black and sizzle. At that point, the air inside of the hollow stalks would explode. In fact, ‘Baozhu,’ which is the Mandarin word for “firecracker,” translates directly to “exploding bamboo.”

But the Chinese didn’t stop there with the exploding bamboo.

They took it a step further sometime between 600 A.D. and 900 A.D. by filling the bamboo shoots with gunpowder and throwing them into a firepit along with steel dust or cast-iron shavings to make the resulting explosion sparkle. 

According to Time magazine, yet “another recipe for Chinese fireworks published by the Paris Academy of Sciences in the 18th century reported that “Chinese fire was made by crushing old iron pots and scraps into sand and adding the sand to gunpowder.”

These firecrackers were often used during New Year Festivals and weddings to scare off evil spirits.”

Fireworks come to America

An Italian explorer, merchant, and writer named Marco Polo who was known for his travels to Asia and ties to wealthy Asian rulers returned home to Europe in 1295, and he reportedly brought Asian fireworks with him.  

After that, many Western rulers began using firework displays to celebrate royal births and other notable occasions. 

So, when Europeans traveled to North America, they brought their recipe for fireworks. 

Some historians say that Capt. John Smith set off the first American display, in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1608.

America’s first Independence Day fireworks display is said to have occurred in Philadelphia in 1777.

Fireworks safety for modern-day celebrants 

As modern-day citizens celebrate America’s Independence Day, fireworks are typically part of the festivities. 

The federal government has issued several warnings about how to be safe when using fireworks. 

The reminders below are from the Consumer Product Safety Commission: 

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt some metals.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of fire or other mishaps. 
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move quickly away from the fireworks device. 
  • Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Never point or throw fireworks (including sparklers) at anyone.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, to prevent a trash fire, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area, and only purchase and set off fireworks that are labeled for consumer (not professional) use.
  • Never use fireworks while impaired by alcohol or drugs.