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17 Things You Probably Never Knew About Fireworks

Baby, you're a — ah, well, you know.

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2. Blue is by far the hardest color to produce.

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Fireworks all have the same base and materials, no matter the color, but adding different chemicals makes different colors. To get any kind of blue, you need to add a copper compound, but if the firework's temperature gets too high, the blue hue gets washed out. And since fireworks involve a lot of, well, fire, most of the time, any blue is pretty dim and unexciting.


4. Fireworks were invented before weapons, and actually led to the invention of gunpowder and explosives.

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Sometime between 600 and 900 A.D., Chinese alchemists searching for a potion for immortality accidentally made the first fireworks by mixing saltpeter (aka potassium nitrate), charcoal, sulfur, and other ingredients, putting the mixture in empty bamboo shoots, and then adding fire. It took another hundred years or so for them to realize that same mixture could be used in battles by attaching firecrackers to arrows.

5. The first-ever fireworks in the US were set off by none other than John Smith.

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Yes, the John Smith whose name was used in Pocahontas. In 1608, he reportedly used some fireworks, either to impress or scare nearby Native Americans.

6. Americans have been setting off fireworks to celebrate their independence since at least 1777.

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The tradition is almost as old as the US itself! A July 4, 1777, celebration in Philadelphia reportedly included a parade, cannons, "loud huzzas," and yes, fireworks.

7. You can thank an organization called The Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise for all of our fireworks laws and regulations.

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It's not just because of the fire and injury hazards. A woman named Julia Barnett Rice founded the society in the early 1900s in New York City to fight noise pollution from anything from steamships to fireworks. Her efforts to get fireworks banned near hospitals and schools and overall limit their use on July 4 worked: Springfield, Massachusetts, soon outlawed the sale of fireworks, and other cities and states followed suit by either outlawing them or slapping on tons of regulations shortly after.


11. Queen Elizabeth I and King James II were really into fireworks.

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Elizabeth loved fireworks so much that she created a court position called “Fire Master of England" for the most talented pyrotechnician in England. James II later knighted the man who made the fireworks display at his coronation.


12. In 1934, explorer Richard Byrd did a ‘lil frozen Fourth of July celebration at his base in Antartica, which he called Little America.

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"He and his men set off fireworks in a storm when the temperature was actually quite warm for them — 33 degrees below zero (-34 degrees Celsius)," James R. Heintze, American University librarian emeritus and author of The 4th of July Encyclopedia, told National Geographic. That means fireworks have been set off on every continent.

14. The deadliest fireworks-related accident in history happened on May 30, 1770, right after Marie-Antoinette’s wedding to the future King Louis XVI.

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Those two just couldn't catch a break: During the celebratory post-wedding fireworks show, the wind blew some partially-detonated rockets onto the large crowd of spectators, which caused a panic. People ran to escape on Rue Royale, and the enusing stampede killed more than 133.

17. The largest fireworks display ever had a mind-boggling 810,904 fireworks.

Noel Celis / AFP / Getty Images

Iglesia Ni Cristo in the Philippines welcomed 2016 with a bang — it set off hundreds of thousands of fireworks for an hour at midnight on Dec. 31, 2015. Oh, and it all happened in pouring rain.