Follow the link in the title above for an excellent and entertaining explanation of how fireworks operate and are made. I have been fortunate enough to see some wonderful fireworks displays, and have long wondered how such marvels are constructed. There's a real art to designing a specialty firework, and to composing displays.
See this link for a history of fireworks. They state that the Liu Yang region of Hunan Province is the world's leading producer of fireworks. While many know that most fireworks are created in China, many assume that they remain the leading source because of cheap labor. This site disputes this, and argues that China's position as leaders in fireworks production stems from its long history with pyrotechnics. The site also notes that originally, all fireworks imported to the U.S. from China came through Hong Kong. After Nixon opened trade between China and the U.S., and then after Deng Xiaoping began supporting entrepreneurialism, the imports began arriving directly from mainland China. Many products were incorrectly labeled and such laxness proved dangerous. At that point, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Council and
..., American Pyrotechnics Association, and Hong Brokers Association spent 10 days in Southern China meeting with representatives from each export corporation and factory managers, on a province by province basis.Now, fireworks are produced in China without government subsidies. This website appears to be sponsored by the Phantom Fireworks chain, which offers not only this history, but also safety information and info on the chemistry behind fireworks.
The meetings involved shooting each item produced in China and determining what the appropriate and correct warning descriptions and print size should be from the point of view of providing safe warning labels for the American consumers. The Americans involved took on the infamous moniker of "The Shekou Six" by most of the shell shocked Chinese industry people, and from that meeting and a few that followed was born the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory (AFSL) which monitors firework production within China to this day.
Finally, for those who, like me, have trouble staying up for, and traveling to the terrific displays tomorrow night, check this link for fireworks screensaves from "Mathematically Beautiful Screensavers."
The image is from http://offtheplanet.typepad.com/photos/73rd_tsuchiura_all_japan_/tsuchiura_fireworks_04_21.html
which offers many photos of a fireworks competition in Japan.