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A Brief History Of Fireworks

Most sources trace the development of gunpowder and, subsequently, fireworks to China about 1,000 years ago. A popular yet unverifiable story has it that a cook mixed three "common ingredients" in his kitchen -- saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal -- and discovered that the resulting powder burned much more vigorously than wood. Furthur, when enclosed in a bamboo tube, the powder would cause an explosion with quite a loud report.

Whether or not you believe this story, the fact remains that fireworks were and are used by the Chinese to celebrate all sorts of special occasions. Tradition has it that the loud noise they produce drives away evil spirits, thus protecting the celebrants. This would explain why they are so popular at the New Year's celebration, as well as weddings, births and coronations.

Fireworks began to appear in Europe in the 13th century. They were possibly brought to the continent by Marco Polo, or by crusaders returning from the East. By the 15th century, fireworks had become very popular in Europe and were used for entertainment at religious festivals. The Italians were the first European country to actually manufacture fireworks, and their products remained popular for hundreds of years. Even today, some of the most respected names in the fireworks' industry can trace their roots back to medieval Italy.

When settlers moved to the new world, they brought their love of fireworks with them. Fireworks were used to celebrate special occasions and to impress the natives. When the American colonies declared their independence in 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife that the day, "ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade...bonfires and illuminations [fireworks] from one end of this continent to other, from this day forward forevermore." And so it has, for over 200 years and counting!

Today, regulations in many states prohibit private citizens from owning and firing all but the smallest fireworks. While this does protect us from drunken neighbors firing eight-inch shells through our windows, it may also leave you wondering if there are displays that are safe and legal, yet still impressive. The solution is simulated fireworks!

Our Simulated Fireworks Cannon™ can produce colorful bursts of streamers and confetti that will allow you to celebrate Independence Day in style, without incurring the wrath of the local fire marshall. Because the cannon is an Aerotechnic™ device, it uses no flash powders or other combustibles to produce its effects. Rather, compressed-CO2 cartridges are the power behind this devices spectacular effects.

Since you can read all about Aerotechnics™ at our website, I'd like to offer a few suggestions on getting a great-looking shot out of your cannon. First, always always always use a backpressure cap and lifting cup, unless your shots are going too high. These two accessories each add about 20-30% to the overall distance the cannon will fire. Also, be sure to affix the cap securely to the end of the barrel -- two wraps of 1.5" masking tape should do the trick. If your backpressure cap releases too soon, the effect will lose power.

If you're shooting streamers, remember that streamers look best when fired from the ground. While it may seem more impressive to launch streamers from a deck or window over a crowd, we've found that the effect is more impressive when onlookers can watch the streamers shoot up into the air and then unroll as they fall. This will also make the effect appear to last longer.

For an "airburst" style effect try this trick. Use 2-4 stacks of Turbofetti™ (part #CF32) and about twenty 18' streamers (part #AS18). Load most of the streamers in first (*after* the lifting cup!) saving as many streamers as you have stacks of Turbofetti. Unroll one of the streamers a little bit and wrap this unrolled end around a stack of the Turbofetti. By wrapping the confetti this way, it will hold together as a stack longer. Not only will this increase the distance that the confetti will fly, but you'll get a cool streamers-and-confetti airburst when the stacks finally break apart. If you want to go all out for that fireworks sensation, add a bit of talcum powder or confectioner's sugar just after you install the lifting cup. This should give you a nice white cloud of "smoke" at the barrel of the cannon. Who needs a pyrotechnics license, now?!

A final note, please remember that you can purchase streamers and confetti in traditional multicolor packs or in red/white/blue mixed packs. Supplies are also available in packs of solid colors if your event's color scheme demands something other than red/white/blue. 


Theatre Effects Customer Service Department
Theatre Effects, 1810 Airport Exchange Blvd. #400, Erlanger, KY 41018
Phone: 1-800-791-7646 or 513-772-7646 Fax: 513-772-3579


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