Patents have documented the evolution of fireworks for well over 100 years. All over the world people bring in the 2020 new year with fireworks. How this tradition began is unclear. There are many different hypotheses. Some believe that fireworks were originally invented in China to ward off evil spirits. We may never definitively know the origin, but thanks to the patent system we can explore evolution of fireworks as described in patents. Admittedly, the patent system is a relatively short record of historical pyrotechnic innovation, but we at least have a small window into the past.

One of the earlier U.S. patents pertaining to fireworks is U.S. Patent No. 638,416, which issued on December 5, 1899, just in time for the new year and new century. The invention depicted above is a toy pyrotechnic device. It include a plurality of sparklers arranged around a rotation wheel. The device includes a cord which when pulled causes the rotational wheel to rotate. When in use, the sparklers are lit, and the cord is pulled resulting in a rotating pyrotechnic display. At the turn of the century (pun intended), this would have been a unique addition to one’s pyrotechnic arsenal. Clearly, there has been a massive evolution of fireworks since this patent, which makes every year more exciting.

We hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve filled with a host of new and thrilling pyrotechnic innovations. Happy New Year’s from Smith & Hopen!