Fire and Fireworks
by April Chernoby
Fire was certainly an eminent danger in a city of wooden rooftops. Fire Marshall Smith advised citizens to clean up combustible material from yards and sidewalks in order to prevent a stray firecracker from starting the city on fire. As the fire department was fearful of a premature explosion of rockets, the fire chief required the fireworks to be lit from the Island No. 2 in the Grand River.
As the sun set over the horizon on the evening of the Fourth, the fire department stood ready as did the people. Shortly after eight o’clock the first rocket was launched brightening the sky as it turned to dusk. A radiant sparkle glistened in on-lookers eyes. Spectators were mystified by a two hour show that launched rockets in the shape of the Union Star, Goddess of Liberty, and Washington on horseback. The effects of such a display were doubled by the reflective glare of the rockets and colored fires on the water. Witnesses later said the display of fireworks was the most impressive the city had ever seen.
The following was excerpted from Centennial Anniversary of American Independence, Celebration at Grand Rapids, Mich., July 4, 1876: Loomis & Dillenback, Printers and Publishers, 1876.
The day closed with an extensive display of fireworks on the island opposite Summit Hill, which was witnessed by many thousand people from the hill, and from housetops in diffferent parts of the city. This display was provided by Gray, Toynton & Fox, of Detroit, who in the settlement of their bill liberally deducted for all accidental failures and premature discharges, which are always inseperable from so large a colletion of pyrotechnics.