Independence Day in America is all about family, cookouts, and fireworks. I have always been a big fan of fireworks. I love watching the bursts of color shattering the darkness and the chaos of each grand finale. Maybe my genes are the reason for my fascination, I mean it was the Italians who gave fireworks color.
Sometime between 600 and 900 A.D., the Chinese invented the world’s first fireworks. These fireworks were far from what we see today and were created primarily as a weapon. Fortunately, during the 13th century, Marco Polo discovered these incendiary devices and brought them back to Italy.
During the Renaissance, the Italians began experimenting with fireworks. They practiced launching them in the air and burned powdered metals and charcoal in tubes, creating the first sparklers. Of course, this kind of spectacle was only suited for the wealthiest Italians, and they quickly became a staple at major events.
Fireworks were still just a whitish-yellow color at this time, but leave it to the Italians to add some flair to an otherwise lackluster showcase.
By the 1830s, Italian scientists discovered how to add color to fireworks. They took a chlorinated powder and added strontium for red, barium for green, copper for blue, and sodium for yellow. They also added potassium chlorate to make the colors brighter.
Some might think that would be the end of the story, however, I found some information that makes me believe Italians love fireworks more than Americans do. It might be hard to believe considering Americans start lighting off fireworks a month before and after the fourth even in states where they’re illegal.
Italy holds a fireworks competition every year in Rome called Caput Lucis. Teams from all over the world compete to see who can put on the best firework show. The competition lasts six days with two shows every night for three of the days.
The next time you see one of those colorful displays in the sky, send your thanks to those inventive Italians long ago.