Genealogy of Fireworks Part 2: US Fireworks Business Is Still All in the Family for Many

Lighting up the skies is a family business. Passed down from generation to generation, and not without dangers, fireworks are still practiced as a trade brought over from Italy and Portugal by their great great great grandfathers. The genealogy of these families lights up many a branch of their family trees.

This genealogy of firework families is a blast. And an international one, too. It blazes from early China and those royal family trees with spectacular genealogical lines to Florence, Italy in the 1400s where the fireworks manufacturing biz was booming.

It was growing in Italy because at that time the pyrotechnical guys found a big hit when they stuck fireworks into the heads of the plaster figures in Italy’s many religious parades. Those figurines’ fire-filled eyes and sparkling mouths kept the masses thrilled.

A genealogy researcher will see that many of the ancestors of today’s American fireworks families began in Italy. Some came from Portugal. In their homelands, some were apprenticed to pyrotechnicians. Others were born into the fireworks business.

Now, the genealogy of fireworks in America is into a new generation. These fireworks businesses are booming with the genealogy of a forth, fifth, sixth and seventh generation now in their family business.

This family history researcher has compiled a brief list of Italian or Portuguese fireworks families who have brought excitement to New Year’s eve, Fourth of July and special event excitement in today’s USA.

The list includes:

  • Bartolotta:  Family of Sam Bartolotta who turned a hobby he began in 1930 into a company Bartolotta Fireworks Inc. of Genesee Depot, Wisconsin in 1977, now on its third generation.
  • Cartolano:  Ancestors of Mike Cartolano current head of Melrose Fireworks, Melrose Park/Kingsbury, Illinois.
  • Grucci: The Grucci Family owners of Fireworks By Grucci, Long Island, NY.
  • Rozzi: The descendants of Paul Rozzi of Rozzi Fireworks in Cincinatti/Loveland, Ohio.
  • Serpico: The family of John Serpico did run the business. Gerry Serpico, who worked with one of the Serpico sons,  and her son Randy now run International Fireworks, Douglassville, PA originally from North Bergen, NJ.
  • Sorgi: The Sorgi Family owners of American Fireworks, Hudson, Ohio.
  • Souza: The Souza Family owners of Pyro Spectaculars, Inc., Rialto, CA.
  • Vitale: The Vitale Family owner of Constantino Vitale’s Pyrotecnico begun in  Pietramelara, Italy in 1889 and relocated in 1920 in New Castle, PA.
  • Zambelli: The Zambelli Family owners of Zambelli Internationale, Inc., New Castle, PA and Florida.

No longer in the family:

  • Chiarella: The descendants of the Joseph Chiarella family who began Legion Fireworks owner which was sold to current owner Frank M. Coluccio, in Wappingers Falls, NY.
  • Speciale: The family of Joe Speciale of American Fireworks,Utica, NY last run by Vincent Speziale but sold in 2011.

No longer in business:

  • Antonelli: Family of Amerigo Antonelli owner of  Antonelli Fireworks, Co., Spencerport/Rochester, New York Dominick including step sons John and Joseph De Ritis and husband of Antonellis’s step-daughter, Dominick Barbollo.
  • Backes: Michael Backes owner of M. Backes and Sons in Wallingford, CT started in 1876 to manufacture backyard use caps and fireworks. This shop closed in 1962.
  • Cimino: The family of Anthony Louis (Tony) Cimino (d. @2013) whose family owned Universal Fireworks Company and Neptune Fireworks, of Willow Grove, PA and Neptune, NJ.
  • Gammerino: Donato Gammerino owner of the  Wallingford Fireworks Co., started in 1890, whose name was later changed to the Charles Gammerino Fireworks Display Co. formerly located on Florence Avenue in Wallingford, CT.
  • Porcheddu: The family of Joseph W. Porcheddu and Paul Porcheddu/Porcheddus of Illinois Fireworks/Star Fireworks of Danville, IL.

A professional genealogist will be able to find many more records on these family tree searches. The genealogy search will take census records, birth and marriage records from many American cities and the original Italian or Portuguese towns. There are lots of branches for the genealogy researcher to find. But it may not be so difficult since many of the businesses are still in family hands. That makes it much easier for the genealogist.  In-person interviews will likely yield genealogy records from family files and ancestor pictures galore.

The genealogy researcher will see that the late 1800s saw many of the fireworks founders move from Europe to America. Ship records and entrance cards will be useful here to verify names, dates and home towns.

Some families have genealogy secrets. These families have fireworks secrets!

Some families have genealogy secrets. These families have fireworks secrets!

To build the history of the companies, the genealogy researcher will use city directories for company information and business records archives. Newspaper accounts and memoires will fill in the details and color.

Here is a brief genealogical list of some of the families whose pyrotechnical businesses are still making family history:

Zambelli

Antonio Zambelli was one.  He came in 1893 from Caserta, Italy.  In the 1940s, he purchased the business from the wife of the founder, named Fazzone. It still is in New Castle, Pennsylvania.  His grandson George Zambelli, Jr. a Medical Doctor heads the family business, Zambelli Fireworks Manufacturing Company.

Sorgi

In 1899, Vincenzo Sorgi left Avenzzano, Italy for the United States. Three years later, in 1902, he began the American Fireworks Company in Hudson, Ohio. It was a business genealogy no brainer for him.  He knew the pyrotechnics field because three generations of his family before him had been in it.  Over a century later, the company is still operating.  Managed now by a seventh generation of the Sorgi family tree, Vincenzo Sorgi’s descendants, Jamie, John and Roberto Sorgi are working in the business.

Rozzi

In 1895, Paul Rozzi, was born in Pietramelara, Italy. Long known as the “Fireworks Capitol” of Italy, Rozzi left there for America at the turn of the new century.

He settled in New Castle, PA.  Paul’s son Arthur, according to the Rozzi Fireworks website, began a business relationship with Cincinnati that continues today.  Arthur started Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks in Loveland, Ohio in 1930.  Today, the descendants of Paul and Arthur still run the company.  Nancy, Joe and Kathy Rozzi are still involved with the company.  It is still all in the family.

Speciale

The Speciale family ran the American Fireworks Manufacturing Company, a fireworks company near Utica, New York since 1947 and in 2011 ended its family history with the business.

The Speciale family genealogy in fireworks dates back to when Vincenzo Speciale immigrated to the United States from Palermo, Sicily, and ran what was called the Italian American Manufacturing Co. At his death in 1936, Vincenzo’s son, Joseph took over.  Upon Joseph’s death, Joseph’s son Vincent took over. As of 2011, Vincent had sold the company to his protégé Kevin and the company was no longer in the family.

Next time, we’ll blast through the genealogy of the omnipresent Grucci family.

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