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John Foster

Whirlwinds, Snowdrops, and Big Bangs: Vintage Fireworks Labels


In the United States, fireworks are synonymous with the celebration of our independence. All across America, where fireworks are legal, brightly colored tents spring up on the outskirts of town announcing the coming of the July 4th holiday weekend. 

But when I was a boy, growing up in Winston-Salem, NC in the 50s and 60s, fireworks were contraband of the highest order. It was against the law to buy them in the state and you were definitely breaking the law to light one in the city. If you got caught, you were told that it would go on your “permanent record” for the rest of your natural life. College was out and the State Penitentiary in Raleigh was most likely next. Parents obviously forbade us to have any, so owning even a single firecracker — much less a lot of them — gave a kid real street cred.

I remember once going to a friend's house to see his secret stash of fireworks. It was awe inspiring: cherry bombs and M80s were the highest, most sought after item, and he had a bag full of them. In those days, the street value of an M80 might go for $2 bucks on the black market — a hefty sum when a 12 oz. Coke could be had for a mere 12 cents. To own one, you just might have to part with a prized baseball card — or, God forbid, your precious, tattered copy of Playboy magazine. Yes, we were boys and fireworks were the things of adventure. To me, they still are.

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Posted in: Accidental Mysteries, Culture, Graphic Design, History

Comment 1  |     |     |   Like 88  |   Tweet 87
Comments [1]
Oh, these are gorgeous, thanks for this. The Black Cat labels still look like that; we had some this year for New Year's.
Kiki B
07.08.14
10:10



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