We have yet another thing to thank the Founding Fathers for. Always full of ideas, John Adams envisioned fireworks as an important part of the Independence Day celebration in a 1776 letter to his wife Abigail suggesting, “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” Well said, Mr. Adams.
Early pyrotechnics were part of the “Glorious Fourth” in the largest cities such as Philadelphia and Boston as early as 1777, however, it seems that community-wide fireworks evolved not only as a way to share collective pride in our independence, but also as a practical way to control fires and general mayhem. In 1908, the American Medical Association reported that there were 5,600 injuries and “agonizing” deaths caused by fireworks that year–more than endured at the Battle of Bunker Hill. In the July 5, 1854 review of the Independence Day’s celebrations from New York Daily Times (from our Historical Newspapers database), editors gave more column inch to “accidents and incidents” than to the ‘fire works’ and festivities!
Upper Arlington’s 4th of July fireworks go back to its very first community-wide celebration in 1923 at Miller Park. “Community News,” the local paper, reported that 1500 people enjoyed “wheels, giant skyrockets, aerial bombs, stars that parachuted downward, huge firecrackers, whizzers and sparklers filled the atmosphere with colors of every hue—and with no fatalities. You can read the full article on microfilm! This year’s show will surely be the best yet, and is set to begin on the 4th around 10pm in Northam Park.
Read more about early fireworks, and the history of Glorious Fourth celebrations in the Reference resources below:
- Encylopedia of American Holidays and National Days
- Celebrations: the complete book of American Holidays
- Folklore of American Holidays