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China Makes America’s Fireworks by Hand. This Inventor Has a Faster Way

China Makes America???s Fireworks by Hand. This Inventor Has a Faster Way
Photograph by Lane Coder/Gallery Stock

The U.S. spent close to $1 billion on fireworks in 2012, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. The trade group’s executive director, Julie Heckman, expects sales to climb “a little bit” in 2013, continuing the market’s steady upward trajectory. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of what explodes in America’s skies and crackles in backyards is imported from China, though a few display companies that put on shows do make a bit of their own stuff.

Less well known: Most fireworks are still made by hand to avoid accidental explosions in factories. “The materials are friction-sensitive,” Heckman explains. “Until I did my first trip to China about 20 years ago, I would’ve never really appreciated ‘made by hand.’ The number of man hours [for] 20 minutes of enjoyment is just astronomical.”