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How Did Cotton Candy Get Started?

Cotton Candy

Cotton candy is one of the most popular sweet treats at carnivals, sporting events, and more at entertainment venues across the country. But how did this unique dessert on a stick get its start?

William Morrison and John C. Wharton, two candy makers from Nashville, Tennessee, invented cotton candy in 1897.

It started with their invention of a machine that heated sugar in a spinning bowl, which had several tiny holes in it. The sugar in the hot, spinning bowl caramelized and made its way through the holes that turned the melted sugar into light strands.

This inventor created the sugary treat they called Fairy Floss. The pair introduced their fun snack to everyone at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. That year, they sold almost 69,000 boxes of Fairy Floss for $.25 each.

The treat was so popular, a candy store purchased the electric machine and started selling the fairy floss just a year later.

The term “cotton candy” wasn’t used for another 15 years in the United States. In the United Kingdom, they call it candy floss.

Other versions of cotton candy are said to have dated all the way back to the 1400s in Italy. However, sugar was a very expensive ingredient, and the spun sugary treat was only available to the wealthy. At that time, since the electric spinning machine hadn’t been invented yet, melted sugar was drizzled over sheets or other objects to dry before it was served.

Today, the way cotton candy is made really hasn’t changed since its invention. Flavored sugar is added to the center of the cotton candy machine. The center, which spins, begins to heat up to 300 degrees, which melts the sugar.

When the center begins to spin, the melted sugar is pushed through a screen that breaks the pieces up into the flossy pieces we recognize today as cotton candy.