Many Interesting Facts

Interesting and free educational stuff I find on the web

Month: December, 2013

History of Fireworks

Interesting Facts about Fireworks

History is full of important events and celebrations and it seems fireworks accompany most of them, at least in last centuries…

Fireworks at Victoria Day

1. Fireworks were invented in China. A legend says a cook accidently spilled some saltpeper (sometimes us as spice) on fire and was fascinated with colors of the produced flames. Later it was discovered saltpeper, sulphur and coal in enclosed space (for instance in a bamboo stick) explode and around 6th century China already used this knowledge in wars. The same idea was used at celebrations, especially for New Years, just not against enemies, but to scare evil spirits.

independence day san diego

2. One of main beauties of fireworks are different colors of their sparkles. Color comes from ions changing energetic states from higher to lower while releasing some energy in the form of light. Every ion can be credited for different color (or shade) and here are some ions with corresponding colors:

  • aluminium (or magnesium or titanium) … silver / so called electric white
  • barium (chloride) … green (in this case color comes from chloride)
  • calcium (chloride) … orange
  • cesium (chloride) … indigo blue
  • copper (chloride) … blue (this color is hardest to achieve)
  • lithium (carbonate) … red
  • potassium (nitrate) … purple
  • sodium (nitrate) … gold / yellow
  • strontium (carbonate) … red (brighter than lithium)

While chemistry and physics behind pyrotechnics can be quite complicated, many fascinating effects can be achieved with relatively simple but clever planning. Blue for instance can be problematic because the salt (copper chloride) is unstable at high temperatures and the color is hardly visible at lower temperatures.

fireworks yokota

3. Approximately nine out of ten fireworks still come from China, which is by far largest supplier in the world. Business with fireworks is worth about one billion (thousand millions) dollars in USA only. There are several fireworks competitions held every ear all over the world. World Pyro Olympics in Manila, Phillipines, is probably the most prestigious of all.

consumer firework

4. When you are dealing with fireworks, you should always think about safety first. Even static electric of syntetic clothes can make them explode. About half of injuries related to fireworks are among younger than 15 years. Don’t forget pets which are much more sensitive to noise than people, and pollution of the air! Some modern fireworks use compressed air instead of gunpowder.

catherine wheels fireworks


5. Fire is traditionally and symbolicaly an element for getting rid of the old and making space for new. New Year, important milestones (think about Independence Day in USA or fall of Bastille in France) in the history of specific country or personal achievements (like marriage or promotion) are typically related to fireworks.


All used images are in public domain!

Take care!

Edmund Evans and Myles Birket Foster

Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899) and Edmund Evans (1826-1905) were among most prominent creators in the second half of 19 century. Birket Foster was probably most important water colourist of his time and Evans best engraver and most influential printer who should be credited as one of the fathers of the picture book as specific media. They both worked at Ebenezer Landells (1808-1860) as apprentices and formed lifelong friendship.

Although both extremely talented for engraving Evans and Birket Foster honed their skills in different directions. First became printer who wanted to produce quality books for the masses and was one of pioneers of color printing, second became painter and illustrator. Edmund Evans managed to take full advantage of chromoxylography, printing techinique which was initially developed for cheap serials but allowed pretty amazing results with clever usage of color mixing. Myles Birket Foster soon became interested in water coloring, but transferred his sense for details from engravings to painting canvas where he created totally new style which made him extremely popular.

This two important men collaborated at several projects and I decided to present two of the earliest.

First is the book written by another amazing person, Ida Pfeiffer (1797-1858). This lady from Vienna, Austria traveled to the countries and places where only most brave men dared to go. Just for reminder: we already presented some works of another interesting lady from the same era: Mary Louisa Molesworth, who also traveled a lot but used her experience to write romantic novels and moralistic stories for young ladies. Book, written by Ida Peiffer is different. It is classical travelogue. Visit to the Holy Land, Egypt, and Italy was published in 1852 by Ingram Cooke & Co., London. Birket Foster made illustrations and Evans engravings. These are the results:

jerusalem by birket foster



a visit to the holy land by ida pfeiffer

Title with credits


burial place at scutari by birket foster

Burial Place at Scutari


the dead dea by birket foster

The Dead Sea


mount carmel by birket foster

Mount Carmel


lebanon by birket foster



baalbec by birket foster



isthmus of suez by birket foster

Isthmus of Suez

We should note Myles Birket Foster traveled a lot too. His paintings were made all over the Europe (he especially liked Venice, Valley of Rhine and Swiss lakes) and North Africa.

One of his next collaborations with Evans has similar scenery with religious background. He was again illustrator and Evans wood engraver. The book is titled Sabbath Bells Chimed by Poets and it was published in 1856 by Bell and Daldy (London) and D. Appleton and Co. (New York). It is another presentation of Birket Foster’s love to landscapes and Evans’ printing skills. It’s a collection of poems by various authors, all related with Sundays, prayer and contemplation.

sabbath-bells the-sabbath-1 sabbath-morning a-churchyard-scene sunday-walks the-sabbath-2 the-church-bells the-village-church the-sunday-mornings-walk the-sunday-evenings-walk sunday the-sabbath-bells a-winter-sabbath-walk the-beauties-of-natureMain complaint to Birket Foster’s work is probably idealized presentation of nature but we have to admit his sense for details is astonishing. These early projects of Edmund Evans and Myles Birket Foster are relatively hard to find in good condition, so if you find one of fist editions in your attic, handle it with care. It just might be several hundred or even thousand dollars worth…

Now you know!