Quality History Tea: Cotton Candy

So let's talk Cotton Candy. As I was at an amusement park a few weeks ago seeing some Cotton Candy being wizzed around in a circle to be put on a stick, I started to wonder who invented cotton candy because they must have been rolling around in money living their best life. And as someone who likes the idea of becoming the next Iron Man (I'm still in mourning don't mind me Endgame really came for my soul) - the history of cotton candy was the only thing I was thinking about as I waited in line.

Who invented the first electrical cotton candy machine?

That would be William Morrison and John C. Wharton in 1897 in Nashville, Tennessee. But let's get back to William Morrison for a second before we dive into our boy Johnny over here. Do you want to know what William's profession was? He was a dentist! Yes you read that right, a whole dentist invented cotton candy with the help of his candy making friend John C. Wharton.

You'd think as a dentist he'd X out sugar completely but it looks like he had plans for his dentist career - can you imagine solving a teeth issue that was caused by your OWN creation!

But here's the interesting part:

Cotton candy isn't actually that bad for your teeth because it's mostly made of air!

Fun lil fact, candy apples and funnel cakes have more sugar than cotton candy - trust me when I say I saw the person put quite literally a massive cup of sugar in the machine to make cotton candy - the idea that candy apples and funnel cakes have more sugar is wild to me.

Was it always called Cotton Candy?

NOPE! Now this is where the real dentist in William really shined - it was originally called Fairy Floss. Morrison and Wharton - after 7 years since inventing the machine - went on their merry way in 1904 to St. Louis Missouri World's fair and vwalla children suddenly couldn't live without their Fairy Floss (and soon probably not going to live without actual floss) - 68,000 boxes were sold at the fair!

Do you want to know the best part about these Fairy Floss boxes?

They were only 25 cents. Now, in 2019 the idea that ANYTHING was ever 5 cents to a quarter at a fair is mind boggling but in 1904, the price for a ticket to the fair was 50 cents, so Fairy Floss was half the price of a fair ticket.

I'm sitting here trying to think if I'd buy it if I were strolling around in 1904. Knowing myself, inner me would lecture me up and down about it being too pricey for something that's 70% air. But then outer me would be stepping right in line for it.

So how did they come up with the name Cotton Candy after Fairy Floss?

Well, they didn't. And by they I mean William and John. When William and John first invented their cotton candy machine, the first thing they did was patent it. This meant they basically owned the cotton candy space for a while - no one could copy/imitate cotton candy with their own flare because of this patent. They had a monopoly on it - the only way for you to make it was to purchase one of their handmade machines which they sold at their corporation Electric Candy Company.

How long was it until the patent protection on the machine expired?

17 years! 17 long years!

Now in the 1920's there was a new dentist on the block out to make a name for himself in this Fairy Floss world.

Josef Lascaux.

He saw how successful William was and was like oh hold up finally this patent protection expired, time to start rolling in money on this fine afternoon. So he thought to himself how shall I treat my patients at my dentist office so they have to visit me every couple of weeks. Ok I'm joking there, I'm sure that's not what he thought of - though I am kind of convinced that's how these two dentists came up with lovely sugary fluff that meant children were filling up their offices a bit.

Lascaux made a machine similar (of course not a carbon copy because our boy Josef was not about to play with the court of law and just copy and paste what already existed under a different name.) to William and John. To separate himself from the Fairy Floss world, he decided on the name Cotton Candy because he thought that it looked like a Louisiana cotton gown. Cotton itself is fluffy too when growing so he decided cotton from Louisiana + sugary treat for children = cotton candy.

Lascaux didn't end up rolling in money, however his name of the treat is what we all know it as! Well, by all I mean in the US. Apparently according to my research - if you're from these two countries pls confirm! - in Australia it is still referred to as Fairy Floss and in the UK it is called Candy Floss.

Is this the end of our cotton candy saga?

Not quite.

We have some more tea - this time we're jumping to 1949. William + John's machine was still king in this industry however, the machine broke down a lot. When it was used though it shook a lot - wasn't the most stable thing in the world but it did do the job, until 1949 Gold Medal Products waltzed in to save the cotton candy machine. The spring loaded base was the saving grace, it didn't break down often which meant more cotton candy can be made.

And then 1970 changed the game.

In 1970 a cotton candy machine that was fully automated - can create cotton candy on its own AND bag said cotton candy in a bag without any human help - was created.If this was not the start of robotics I don't know what was. As of current, the largest machine can hold up to 3 pounds of sugar at once and I don't know about you but that sounds like the definition of a heart attack but like a happy fluffy one.


So you know how currently cotton candy is pink and blue? YEAH IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THAT!

First, Fairy Floss was white. Even while I was growing up I saw white cotton candy a bit more than blue and pink. Also! the original Fairy Floss sold at the fair has precisely 0 flavor. NADA. Just pure sugar wizzed around into fluff.

And there we have it! If you ever are on line for Cotton Candy, try looking at the machine! Gold Medal Products manufactures just about all cotton candy machines!

I was recently contacted by Gerard Paul from manyeats.com, and he mentioned he also wrote a crash course on Cotton Candy - if you're interested on reading a bit more history, including the science behind Cotton Candy, feel free to read it over at History of Cotton Candy!

Now, drumroll please, how long has it been since you've had cotton candy?


  1. This was such an interesting read, I know nothing about candy floss other than it's made with spun sugar. I like your theory that it's not too bad for you because it's got lots of air, haha. And I'm still in mourning for Tony Stark too, that was some ending, really hard. It's been far too long since I had any candy floss, I will have to hunt down a funfair soon! Lisa x

    1. Thank you!! So happy to hear you enjoyed reading :) Yess, although of course having a whole lot of sugar isn't the best, cotton candy/candy floss is mostly air, which was super surprising to learn when I was researching!

      That ending was just not what I was expecting, I actually cried when he died - not sure how the Marvel Universe can continue without him!

  2. I do love cotton candy but was not aware of all its history! It is so interesting!

    1. Cotton candy is tasty from time, that's for sure! SO happy to hear you enjoyed reading all about the history of it :)

  3. I'm from the UK and yes we do call it candy floss!
    I remember growing up it was most often white, occasionally pink, and you only got it at school fetes and carnivals and it was fresh spun.
    I don't like the candy floss in a bag because it always tastes stale to me!

    1. Yay my research was correct, thank you for confirming!

      And same here, white and sometimes pink/blue thrown in was what I grew up with! Freshly spun >> in a bag; I 100% agree, when it's in a bag it just tastes too stale, if it's not freshly spun it just doesn't taste right!

  4. Ahhh I love these posts! They're always so informative. I had no idea it came from Nashville. The fairy floss/ cotton candy thing is interesting as we call it candy floss in the UK. And I don't think I've ever seen it blue?! We usually have pink and white where I live. Such a great read x


    1. YAY - this makes me so happy to hear, I love writing history crash courses - always takes a while when in the researching phase but always fun narrating history with my own voice, one of my favorite topics on my blog to do!

      I find it so interesting how in the UK, it took half of each name and then put it together! Wait really!!! Only pink and white hmm now I'm curious depending on where in the world, different colors are what it's only known as!

  5. I love that you are the kind of person that had some cotton candy, thought "hmmm I wonder what the origin is" and then went on a full on research and publication spree... Never change xx

    Jas xx

    1. AH thank you so so much for saying this ❤️❤️❤️

      I used to actually never promote my history crash courses when I first wrote them partially because I didn't think people would enjoy reading about history - I even didn't participate in any thread when I was doing a crash course history for the week but after the first few I published, decided to test the waters with promoting it and I'm so happy that I did - I love writing them and I'm honestly so happy everyone enjoys reading them too!!

  6. Fairy floss is such a cute name - and in the UK we do still call it Candy floss!! great post

    Becky | Uptown Oracle

    1. Thank you for confirming the name! I find it so interesting how the UK took the two names and put them together to make Candy Floss!

  7. A dentist created one of the worst things possible for your teeth?! no way! Oh wait i type comments as I read, so it is not even that bad?? my parents lied to me. Interesting that people call it Cotton Candy and Fairy Floss, it will always be Candy Floss to me! To say that it is 70% air, it is pretty tasty. I am not surprised that it didn't have flavour as I bet the whole concept of the texture and the melt on the tongue was very new and different! It being white though is very strange! I had some Candy Floss not long ago as I had a cocktail and a lil bit was on top of it! I do love your History Lesson! xx


    1. YESS!! I was so surprised when I saw the profession dentist attached the name of the invention of sugary fluff! Same same same, I feel like my whole life is a lie, here I was thinking it was like the worst thing possible to eat, but it's mostly air so compared to candy apples, it's somehow the better option even though one is a literal fruit haha!

      Yes so true!! Now that I think of it, imagine adding a flavor on top of it + melt on the tongue texture. That would have been too much to even digest mentally all at once haha - thank you so much for reading, I'm so happy to love my history crash courses, it means so much to me that you do! ❤️❤️

  8. I haven't ate candy floss in years - ever since becoming a vegan Candy floss always reminds me of being a little girl having holidays by the seaside. I'm sending you all of my love 💜

    With love, Alisha Valerie x | www.alishavalerie.com

    1. That's such a cute image to pair with cotton candy/candy floss! For me, it's definitely a day/night in an amusement park - first thing I think of when thinking of an amusement park!

  9. I'm not a massive fan of cotton candy, but that was a very insightful post! I do agree that amusement parks and county fairs with rides are the first things that come to mind by association. :)

    1. I'm the same with cotton candy! From time to time (like maybe once a year haha) I don't mind it but not like every month or so! So glad to hear you enjoyed reading, it was super fun to research and write this post so it's amazing to hear you enjoyed reading. And most definitely! The first thing I think of when I see cotton candy are amusement parks and county fairs :)