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Fireworks explode over Lake Monona in Madison on June 24 at the conclusion of Shake the Lake.

As with many all-American traditions, fireworks displays are a melting pot from around the world.

Li Tian, a monk from the Hunan province in China, is credited as inventing the first firecracker, the predecessor to aerial fireworks, around 1000 A.D.

France’s King Louise XV spent large sums on fireworks displays, which fostered technical advances by the Italian pyrotechnicians Morel Torre and the Ruggieri brothers. A generation later, in the 1830s, Italians introduced metallic powders to create specific colors. Japanese pyrotechnicians are credited with fine-tuning artillery shells to allow for symmetrical designs and patterns.

At the time of the American Revolution it was common for fireworks displays to mark royal occasions such as coronations, marriages and births. Perhaps this makes it all the more fitting that the tradition of fireworks on the Fourth of July began on July 4, 1777, the first anniversary of our country declaring its independence from the British monarchy.

What is the wholesale value of fireworks sold in the United States?

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A. $482.6 million

B. $181.2 million

C. $689.1 million

D. $177.6 million

Answer: A. According to the most recent Economic Census, the wholesale value of fireworks sold in the U.S. was $482.6 million in 2012, up from $406.6 million five years earlier.

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— Kristin Runge, UW-Extension; kristin.runge@ces.uwex.edu; Twitter @RungeKristin

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