Firecrackers are essentially un-American, even though we associate them our most deeply patriotic celebration, the Fourth of July. The fact is that firecrackers are foreign-born novelties, and have been as long as Americans have lit them for a noisy salute to the nation's birth. As it turns out, firecracker history is as colorful and complicated as the lithographed artwork used to sell them. Warren Dotz, a pop-culture historian, collector, and author of many books, including a pair on cat and dog food labels, spoke with us about their story, while the photos of firecracker labels above and below come from Mike McHenry's Mr. Brick Label Flicker page.
Dotz says that, growing up in New York City, he and his friends were obsessed with firecrackers. In a 2009 interview with Marty Weill atEphemera, he explained, "The day after the Fourth of July my friends and I would search to salvage the gunpowder in those firecracker 'duds' that hadn't exploded.