Here it is—a day when we, as a Nation, celebrate our Independence! A day for togetherness, gratitude, pyrotechnics, and for me—ephemera. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that more than the fireworks displays themselves, I love the fireworks' packaging. A quick search on the internets (click) tells me this:
The history of fireworks goes back thousands of years to China during the Han dynasty (~200 B.C.), even long before gunpowder was invented. It is believed that the first "firecrackers" were likely chunks of green bamboo, which someone may have thrown onto a fire when dry fuel ran short. The rods sizzled and blackened, and after a while, unexpectedly exploded. Bamboo grows so fast that pockets of air and sap get trapped inside of the plant's segments. When heated, the air inside of the hollow reeds expands, and eventually bursts through the side with a long bam!
The strange sound, which had never been heard before, frightened people and animals terribly. The Chinese figured that if it scared living creatures so much, it would probably scare away spirits - particularly an evil spirit called Nian, who they believed to eat crops and people. After that, it became customary for them to throw green bamboo onto a fire during the Lunar New Year in order to scare Nian and other spirits far way, thus ensuring happiness and prosperity to their people for the remainder of the year. Soon, the Chinese were using bursting bamboo for other special occasions, such as weddings, coronations, and births. The "bursting bamboo", or pao chuk as the Chinese called it, continued to be used for the next thousand or so years.
Skimming over the creation of gunpowder, and jump to Italy during the Renaissance, and you'll find that the Italians are beginning to develop fireworks into an art form:
Later, the discovery of, "quick match"—a fast burning fuse made by putting regular fuse into a small, continuous paper tube— gave firemasters the ability to ignite many fireworks simultaneously and led to the creation of set pieces. They were the giant pictures/words made from hundreds of small burning torches.
Settlers brought the fireworks over to the Americas around the 1600s, where they continued to be used to celebrate special occasions (or to scare off Native Americans). The first 4th of July Celebration was in 1777, a year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The display was to instill hope and patriotism. When trade relations were established between the U.S. and China (less than a century later), Chinese firecrackers became a major import in America.
While I can't find much on the history of the labels, I can say that graphically speaking, they are brilliant. China offers the largest variety, with India and Britain right behind them.
Whatever you do this Fourth, I hope you enjoy yourselves. While you're staring up at the sky tonight, don't forget to look down every once and awhile, and hope to find some of these lovely wrappers. xo