Even before John Adams signed the Declaration of Independence, he imagined fireworks as an integral part of celebrating our country’s day of freedom and that future generations would celebrate the 4th of July “as the great anniversary Festival.” Adams, indeed, was a man who was passionate about his freedom.
Adams wrote many letters to his dear wife, Abigail Adams, and in one such letter dated July 3, 1776, he wrote that the event celebrating our freedom, our “Day of Deliverance,” should “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.”
Lest she think his wanting to celebrate in such a grand manner was a brief flight of fancy, he expressed his deep understanding of what was happening affected the world. He went on to write, “I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. ~ Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means.” The use of fireworks were a way to tangibly show what he was feeling.
The first celebratory Independence Day fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777. The Pennsylvania Evening Post wrote that in Philadelphia, “The evening was closed with the ring of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons , and the city was beautifully illuminated.” The paper also noted that “Everything was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal.”
So the next time you look up into the brightly lit night sky on a typical 4th of July, remember that John Adams envisioned the same scene you are looking at, as if he were viewing them through your eyes; and remember to celebrate with ‘pomp and parade!’