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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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July 3, 2001     Feather River Bulletin
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4c A World for Kids Progress,ve~ Record,~Ogre % By Jenette Meneely 0 The Fourth of July is almost synonymous with fireworks Almost everyone knows what fireworks are. needed for both to work. We see them every Fourth of July at towns ~ Firecrackers, which make a big bang, but around the nation. But, who invented the big have no sparks or showy stuff The military learned to use shot (pieces or boomers, and when did they become linked to balls of metal) and gunpowder for military the Fourth of July? ~ purposes. Technically, fireworks are called "incendiary devices or materi- als, used for signaling or enter- tainment, and sometimes known as pyrotechnics." Fireworks include gadgets that, when ignit- ed or set off, make a lot of noise, smoke, motion, or a combination of the.above. What this mumbo jumbo means is that they are meant to be lit on f'n-e, and are used as a show, like our Fourth of July celebrations, or as a way to signal trouble. The military uses "fireworks," technically, to call for help. The technology learned by creating fireworks is also used in welding, and in weaponry. The word pyrotechnics also includes the skills it takes to make and set off fireworks. (That's why nobody should set off fireworks except a profes- sional, or a responsible adult. Personally, I'll leave it to some- one who has trained a long time to do it. I value my fin- gers too much.) What makes fireworks go kaboom? Fireworks are usually made of something like potassium nitrate (saltpeter) which sup- plies oxygen, and char- coal and sulfur that com- bine with the oxygen, producing heat and light. Shortly after 1800, potas- sium nitrate was taken out of fireworks, and potassium chlorate was put in. It is still a key part today. of most fireworks The stuff that burns has been switched around, too. Now, instead of charcoal or sul- fur, starch, gums, sugar, shellac, and various petroleum products, (made of the same stuff as gasoline or motor oil), is used. The neat part of any firework, the color, is given to the fire by putting in different mixtures of metal. (NOTE: Don't you even, for one millisecond, think about experimenting with this stuff yourself. I don't fancy fingerless, or faceless, readers!!!) A house for the fire Most fireworks are made by putting the guts of the beast in a paper case. Some types of fireworks you may have heard about are: Roman candles, long, candle-like things that you stick in the ground; they give off balls or stars of fire Catherine wheels and pinwheels; these are mounted around the outside of a wheel. When they go off, they make the wheel spin around Suns: these are similar to Catherine wheels, but the sparks shoot out from the center of the wheel, so they don't make the wheel spin around Pastilles rotate when they are lit, as they are made of a spiraling coil The skyrocket is the most elabo- rate and spectacular of the fire- works. It is propelled like a rocket, shooting high up into the air, and exploding into a million little bits of beautiful light. These are what you usually see at a Fo,~th of July show, and can burst into flowery shapes, and sometimes, even a pic- ture of a flag, etc. Photography of fireworks courtesy of Jackie Whedbee 1997 Huzza, huzza. How'd they get to America? Fireworks became popular in America for celebrations in the mid-19th century for most of the country, though records of fireworks being used here predate that. The fin'st record I have found of the use of fireworks dur- ing a Fourth of July celebration occurred in Philadelphia, July 4, 1777, and was called "one of the most elabo- rate celebrations" of that time. The event included "all of the elements of typical future celebrations--the discharge of can- non, one round for each state in the union, the ringing of bells, a dinner, the use of music, the drinking of toasts (it would subse- quently be traditional to have one toast for each state in the union), "loud huzzas," a parade, fireworks, and the use of the nation's colors..." Who made these crazy things? Fireworks were first made by the Chinese, so long ago that no one really knows when they were fiR'st used. We do know that the Chinese made war rockets and explosives as early as the 6th century. The Chinese claim to have made gun- powder (the basic mixture used to make fireworks) during the Song dynasty (960- 1279). Their history mentions the use of rockets in a war against the Mongols in 1279. The Arabs, who learned how to make fireworks in the seventh century' called the rockets "Chinese arrows." Historians say that the Mongols, the people who invaded China in 1279, probably brought Chinese gunpowder and rockets to Europe in about 1241. The first historical records that prove that they were used in Europe date from 1258. Although China created the firework, people from Europe learned a lot about them, and became better at making them than the Chinese by the 1300s, about the time the gun was invented. Why fireworks are related to the gun The technology used to make fireworks is also the technology that created the gun, with- gunpowder being the essential ingredient The following is a description of the event as printed in a newspaper: "The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibi- tion of fh'eworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and glad- ness was universal." (Virginia Gazette, 18 July 1777). Warnings from yesteryear As wonderful and beautiful as fireworks are, they are also extremely dangerous. July Fourth celebrations seem to have always included some very tragic accidents, although, today, I think we react with more horror (and rightly so) to accidents than occurred in the old days. Though it may seem like a bunch of old fuddy*duddies trying to ruin the fun, warn- ings about using fireworks or other explo- sives are very serious. For instance, this entry from Placerville, Calif., dates from 1857. Thank goodness that, if something like this happened today" we would treat it with more respect: "In Placervflle they had great times. A beau- tfful procession, formed of the fh'e and other companies, headed by a splendid band of music, was much admired by crowds of spec- tators from the country... Chris Hauson, a German, had his left arm and right hand Firework displays by Grucci, based New York, can cost as much as $1.7 lion for one show. The company will about 400 trained pyrotechniclans, all around the country, for this Fourth of July celebrations. will take as many as four entire day to set up a show, using 33 of send, 7 miles of wiring, and lumber to side two homes. For all the show will last around ~L8 minutes. year, Grucci will be premierinl~ts fireworks shell-the Alphagrucci-that i spell out actual words. Ols: cat blown off by the premature explosion of ~ al cannon, with which a salute was being ~on fired."(Weekly Bulletin, San Francisco), 1114, July 1857, 3. ,, i~, Doesn't sound like such a "great time to It doesn't seem to have been unusual for s~4s., a terrible accident to occur either, which ~ f scary in itself, I think. ~m .r. Injuries associated with fireworks, and otKlel explosives, such as is described in the ne~ di~ paper entry above, eventually caused the en country to pass laws about their use. As a result, in many states of the U.S. and in p$ of Canada, the sale of fireworks is restrict en by law. Be sure to ask your parents or loc~itJz . t ~ti officials about safety instruc ions and la your town before handling any fireworks, ~e .., For more informatlon on fireworks, see: v~ , or visit The Learning Channel at: dc . tor lab Don't forget to come for the Kaleidoscope Korner Kite Kontest July 141 The first-ever Kaleidoscope as well, for best-made kite, the entry deadline until ly' anyone you want, to this iGJr of the Month Korner Kite Kontest is set for age5-9, and one for age l0-14. Monday, July 9. So, if youone-of-a-kind fun day! Ou G'rl Scout of the favoritel~ti July 14, at 2:00 p.m. in the There'U even be a prize for haven't entered, you still have List of materials: Month for July is Kayleem o v i e, j Plumas-Sierra County Fair-biggest "blooper" kite--the time! 1. newspaper (main sail needs grounds, silliest, weirdest kite in the Any kid up to age 14 can to be newspaper) Webster, age eight, who has b e c a u s e I ~~--. been in the Girl Scouts for he s green, Don t miss this opportunity contest, enter. 2. any kind of tape four years. (She will be nine she says, ] ~~ to join in the fun and win fan- Other great freebies are Y ou have to use the materials 3. woodendowelrods inAugust.) and that's tastic prizes while you're at it. available for participants and listed below, but you can4. bamboo skewers The first place winner, with other attendees, make your kite any shape,5. plastic tubing, any size She is a student at C. Roy h e r I ....... |_e Carmichael Elementary, f a V o r i t e / the best flying, most creative Where'll be other things to size, or style you like. 6. magic markers and has just completed her color. kite, will win a large, deluxe do, too, with food and fun So, remember, there'll be7. crayons Brownie level in the Girl Kaylee loves to read. cloth kite with all the trim- abounding, plenty of fun, games, and8. pencils and pens mings. Because of the holiday refreshments. Don't forget to 9. paint Scouts. This means that she favorite book is, "Them s| will be promoted to Junior Hamster in My Lunch Bo~ | There will be other prizesrush, we ve decided to extend bring your friends, your fatal- 10. string or gshing line level in the fall. She loves reading q I 11. wire When asked what she much that, when she g~-O~ | fl ' , " . | 12. plastic surveyor's tape for loves best about Girl Scouts, up, she would like ! , ? Hey, kids, Got a book review, editorial, or article you d like to submit to our kid s page. ~ taft Here's when it's due---absolutely' positively final! ] 13. paper, bows or streamers outs."KayleeShesaid'also likes"the toCampplay becomeKayleea librarian.was born in N~ ~ *~ JAUuly11 i flo~.?ar AYSO soccer, and to roller York, but moved to Portd dboard for template blade. ,, when she was just a bal~ 15 O:7=~: 14 She has three sisters. September 12 December 12 ~ 15. hot or normal glue. Shrek is Kaylee's .-.._ Plumas County Youth Council builds partnerships for positive healthy youth which engage youth as active leaders & resources in their communitie ' Join Today! 285-6516 ! Plumas County Alcohol & Drug Resource Center 264 County Hospital ltd. Quincy 283-6316 )2