Business to Business DirectorySeptember 20, 2019
The New UPMC Events Center at RMUSeptember 26, 2019
Many immigrants to the U.S. brought recipes with them from the Old Country, but Antonio Zambelli was a bit different. He brought his family’s recipes for creating fireworks. Italians enjoy celebrating holidays and festivals with fireworks, and he brought that love of pyrotechnics with him.
Thank goodness he did so, otherwise our skies for the past one hundred plus years would have been a lot less colorful and our celebrations less jubilant.
A Family Affair
In 1893, Zambelli emigrated from a village near Naples, Italy to New Castle, Pennsylvania. He was 16 at the time. He found work as a laborer in the New Castle Works of Carnegie Steel, and part-time employment making fireworks by hand for the Fazzoni Brothers Fireworks Company. Zambelli eventually married another Italian immigrant, Maria Tuscano; they had four sons together.
In the 1940s, Fazzoni died and Zambelli and his oldest son, Joseph, acquired the company. It became a family affair when his other sons joined the business as well. In 1957, Antonio Zambelli died at the age of 79. George Zambelli Sr., a 1946 graduate of Duquesne University, assumed the management of the Fazzoni Brothers Fireworks Company. In 1960, he renamed the business Zambelli Fireworks Manufacturing Company.
A Leader in Pyrotechnics
Zambelli Fireworks burst onto the scene when the company was tapped to provide the pyrotechnics for the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Likewise, they provided them for the inaugurations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Thus, establishing them as the leader in the pyrotechnics field.
In the 1970s, fireworks displays became more complicated. Shows needed choreographed to music. As the nation’s bicentennial approached in 1976, the popularity of pyrotechnics exploded (pardon the pun). The Zambellis became known as “The First Family of Fireworks.”
Zambelli Fireworks became the hallmark of pyrotechnic shows and their displays have lit up the night sky all over the world from Russia to Oman and for special events such as the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981, Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States in 1995, and the 250th Anniversary of the founding of Pittsburgh.
On Christmas Day 2003, George Zambelli Sr. died at the age of 79, and in 2007, George Zambelli Jr., an ophthalmologist, took over the reins of management of the company.
Today, that small company that Antonio Zambelli started in the late 1800s has grown to include corporate offices in Warrendale and a Southeast Regional office in Boca Raton, Florida as well as a Western Regional office in Bakersfield and Lake Tahoe, California. The company that started as the dream of a 16-year-old Italian immigrant and a recipe book for fireworks now produces approximately 2,000 displays a year.
By Janice Lane Palko