A firecracker is a small explosive device designed to produce a large bang for celebration or entertainment or to blow away the fingers of children and dim-witted adults. They have fuses and are wrapped in a heavy paper casing to contain the explosive compound. Firecrackers, along with all fireworks, originated in China.
The first firecracker was from around 200 BC, a sort of heated bamboo that exploded when heated continuously. The Chinese name for firecracker literally means “exploding bamboo.” After the invention of gunpowder, firecrackers still had a shape that resembled bamboo and produced a similar sound. In Chinese culture, firecrackers are used to scare off evil spirits.
Firecrackers are made with flash powder, cordite, smokeless powder, or black powder as the propellant. But anything from match heads to kerosene and lighter fluid can be used in making firecrackers. The key to loud firecrackers is pressure. The entire firecracker must be very tightly packed for it to work best.
Here are some labels from vintage firecracker packages from China marketed for the USA in the early part of the 20th century: