In the present development of pyrotechny there is almost no limit to be placed on the ornate forms of spectacular entertainment. The principles that have already been described are capable of infinite modifications and variations. Almost any desired effect may be achieved by a suitable mingling of pyrotechnic materials and devices. All the resources of chemistry are at the disposal of the artificer, so that he has full control over both the appearance and the activity of the chosen fires. He is free either to imitate the most majestic and the most terrible wonders of Nature's own displays, or he may give free reign to his imagination, and so contrive other dreadful or glorious interpretations of his mood by the fire magic. His requirements for the task are of the simplest in essentials, yet endlessly complex in the possible variations and adaptations. Now, as always, he has need of a suitable composition, the combustion of which shall be exact, in harmony with his purposes. He has need also, for his more impressive pageants, of frameworks to hold any given number of pyrotechnic pieces in such disposition as shall render their discharge accurate according to his plan. The colors of the flames are completely subject to his will, through his intelligent choice of chemical substances in the mixtures with which the various pieces are charged. The exact moment of discharge for each piece, as well as the precise manner of its discharge, is carefully regulated by the fashion in which the matches are laid. The total of the spectacular results is definitely subject to the artificer's will, by means of the framework. This contains, in fact, the bones of that skeleton over which he lays a wondrous-hued flesh of living flames.
The commercial exploitation of fireworks adequately demonstrates the vast possibilities for such scenic triumphs. Displays of the most ornate character are offered to the public. The crowd is familiar with the burning of Rome, with the eruption of Mount Pelee, with innumerable other cataclysmic panoramas. And, too, the crowd is familiar not only with the splendors of the terrible, but also with the splendors of pure beauty. For the art of pyrotechny gives all its treasures gladly for the presentation of ideal loveliness, wrought in shimmering textures of fire. The artificer is, indeed, a magician, at the touch of whose wand subtle dreams of glory become incarnate in flame.
Perhaps the only essential novelty developed within recent years is the use of daylight effects. An interesting phase has come from the Japanese. To their ingenuity we owe the idea of garnishing a bomb or grenade with the figures of persons or animals, or what not. These effects are not produced by combustion, but by the constructions of an exceedingly light framework, which is covered with sheer silken fabric, duly colored in accordance with the particular design. As the projectile reaches its extreme altitude, the figure is thrown out, and then floats in the air, suspended by parachutes.
Since we have given credit to the Japanese, it is only fair that we should refer also to the Chinese, who, through so many ages, have remained steadfastly devoted to the simplest forms of the art of pyrotechny. Generation after generation, the Chinese have gone on making firecrackers, of which they were the originators. To the Chinese, firecrackers are appropriate to almost every occasion. They are often a conspicuous part in hospitable rites. They crackle merrily at wedding celebrations and birthdays. They make noisy every day of rejoicing. They are believed to ward off evil, to woo good influences. The coarse bamboo paper used in the manufacture of them is colored red because this hue attracts good fortune, according to the Chinese superstition. China itself annually consumes an enormous number of firecrackers, which are chiefly manufactured in the Canton district. In addition, the exports of this humble, yet highly esteemed, pyrotechnic device amount to about three million dollars' worth yearly.