Fireworks of 1870s, by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott described a fireworks display in Eight Cousins, a book published in 1875.

Uncle Mac takes 13-year-old Rose Campbell into Boston Bay to watch fireworks from his boat:

“…they are going up all over the city, and how pretty they are,” said Rose, folding her mantle about her and surveying the scene with pensive interest.

“Hope my fellows have not got into trouble up there,” muttered Uncle Mac, adding with a satisfied chuckle, as a spark shone out, “No; there it goes!  Look, Rosy, and see how you like this one; it was ordered especially in honor of your coming.”

Rose looked with all her eyes, and saw a spark grow into the likeness of a golden vase, then green leaves came out, and then a crimson flower flowing on the darkness with a splendid lustre.

“Is it a rose, Uncle?” she asked, clasping her hands with delight as she recognized the handsome flower.

“Of course it is!  Look again and guess what those are,” answered Uncle  Mac, chuckling and enjoying it all like a boy.

A wreath of what looked at first like purple brooms appeared below the vase, but Rose guessed what they were meant for and stood straight up, holding by his shoulder and crying excitedly,__


“Thistles, Uncle, Scotch thistles! There are seven of them, one for each boy [her cousins]!  Oh, what a joke!”  and she laughed so hard that she plumped into the bottom of the boat and stayed there until the spectacle was quite gone.


I think I’ve read elsewhere about fireworks in a stars-and-stripes pattern–or did I see or imagine that?

Do we have such spectacles today, nearly a century and a half after?  Has anyone seen a fireworks display with identifiable flowers or patriotic symbols?

Christmas Books

In childhood I could count on two items under the Christmas tree:  One would be “from Santa Claus,” the other a book.

The one “from Santa Claus” was a toy.  I still have “Pantaloons,” a fuzzy but now wobbly grey elephant—I think I named him from a story my parents had read to me which included the word pantaloons, but I have no idea now what that story might have been.  During the Second World War, when toys were hard to come by, a home-made doll house gave me an unforgettably special Christmas.

The other dependable gift was a book.  The first I remember, given before I could read, I called  “The Big Book” for its size.  It was an anthology of fairy tales, poetry, and legends designated as suitable for grades 1 through 6; it was my most requested “read to me” book, and a favorite once I could read it myself. 

One year Cousin Mabel gave me a collection of English poetry signed by its editor.  Another year, the grandmother whose limited income meant her gifts were usually a dollar (In those days I much appreciated a whole dollar to spend as I wished.) gave me the collected poetry of Rudyard Kipling—probably with my parent’s financial assistance.  Cousin Mabel had introduced me to Kipling and that book has been well worn over the years. 

The year I was 16, my father had taken me to hear Robert Frost read his poetry and then, because of Mr. Frost’s association with my father’s Alma Mater, I found an autographed book of his poetry under our tree.

Obviously, I enjoyed poetry.   The books included fairy tales, biographies, and classic children’s literature, but which were Christmas gifts and which birthday gifts or other acquisitions, I don’t remember.   

Now I have passed on some of those vintage books to three more generations with the hope that they will love printed words, appreciate the history, the moods, the alternate worlds, the heroic possibilities, and the clearly imagined images as I do.  Many of those books I can’t yet turn over to others because they are like family I can’t leave behind.