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Home > Useful Links > History of Cotton Candy

History of Cotton Candy

Airy and whimsical cotton candy of today can be traced back to 1400’s Italy, where affluent families with personal cooks would enjoy “spun sugar” for dessert. Sugar was melted to a liquid state and strings, dripping from a fork, were spun over an upside down bowl. This texture was slightly different from common day cotton candy, but was a start.

In the eighteenth century, candy makers in Europe were using similar techniques to create spun sugar, often laying the strings over oiled rolling pins. In 1897, William Morrison and John C. Wharton of Tennessee, created a machine that would melt the sugar and push the liquid through a screen to create the strands of sugar. They also experimented with coloring and flavoring. Once the candy strands were collected in a bowl or pan, they twirled the candy onto a paper cone for ease of serving. Sensing their upcoming success, they quickly obtained a patent to protect their “Fairy Floss” machine.

In 1904 at the St. Louis World Fair, the pair sold Fairy Floss for 25 cents a box. In 1904, 25 cents was quite a bit, seeing as how admission to the fair alone was 50 cents. Wharton and Morrison sold a whopping 68,655 boxes, with their sales totaling over seventeen thousand dollars. A year later, Fairy Floss machines were being sold to candy stores, selling boxes at 5 to 10 cents.

In 1900, Thomas Patton received a separate patent for his work with caramelized sugar and forming strings with a fork. He later used a gas-fired rotating plate to spin the threads, selling his candy at Ringley Bros. Circus. Around the same time a dentist from Louisiana, Josef Delarose Lascaux, created his own cotton candy technique. He never received a patent or trademark for the confection.

The name "Cotton Candy" didn’t start until the 1920’s, however many people and countries still call it fairy floss, candy floss, or spun sugar. In 1949, Gold Medal Products introduced a cotton candy machine with a spring base, making it more reliable. By the 1970’s, adaptations on the first cotton candy machine changed the ease of production by introducing the automatic machine. This made cotton candy more widely available and allowed it to become even more popular at candy stores, carnivals, circuses, and fairs worldwide.


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