Fireworks have been part and parcel of U.S. Independence Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, since its first celebration in July 1777.

That celebration took place in the midst of the Revolutionary War, however, and explosions, artillery fire, and “bombs bursting in air”

were not exactly a cause for joy and celebration at the time. So why did  Americans begin celebrating Independence Day with fireworks?

To answer this question, a lot of people point to John Adams’s letter to his wife, Abigail, informing her that the Continental Congress had declared independence

“[This day] 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.”

But pyrotechnics were already a common manner of celebration and  thanksgiving, particularly to mark national triumphs and the restoration  of peace, and John Adams had little to do with that.

How fireworks came to be a central component of Independence Day  celebrations in the United States was ultimately the result of hundreds  of years of royal pageantry.

The celebratory display of fireworks we know today evolved out of the  use of fireworks in romantic performances of combat and in elaborate  pageants and plays, typically associated with national events.

England’s King Henry VII, whose royal standard bore the Red Dragon, included fireworks at his wedding in 1486

the first known use of fireworks at a national celebration, and his  wife’s coronation in 1487 featured a fire-breathing dragon, which became  popular in royal fireworks displays during the reign of the Tudors.

Queen Elizabeth I (ruled 1558–1603) was so fond of fireworks in performances that she  even appointed a royal “Fire Master of England” to coordinate shows.

After Robert Catesby’s Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament was foiled, fireworks were used locally in the annual commemoration of the event, sometimes called Fireworks Night.