These celebratory fireworks in Britain went awry

I have already heard plenty of comments on the Grand Illumination from my friends who attended. Some report that much of the entertainment was a pale shadow of past years, and in some respects a disaster, while others say that it was a success equal to any previous year. Here is a short story about a real fireworks disaster from more than two and a half centuries ago.

Peter Harrison (1716-1775) was the architect of my home, Newport House. In 1744, he was a prisoner of war of the French at the fortress of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia. While there, he invented the world’s first practical flush toilet (thank you!), and he surreptitiously copied down and smuggled out the complete plans of...