The cotton candy machine was invented by William James Morrison and John C. Warton in 1897. Warton was a Nashville candy-maker and Morrison was, ironically, a dentist. While cotton candy was said to have been around for centuries, Morrison and Warton are credited with inventing the first cotton candy machine.
Their cotton candy machine melted the sugar, spun it into slim threats and pressed it through a wire screen. In their U.S. Patent application, filed on December 23, 1897, the gentlemen said: “The object of our invention is to obtain an edible product consisting of the said filaments of melted and ‘spun’ sugar or candy.” It was accepted on January 31, 1899 and is U.S. Patent #618,428.
The machine was introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. However, Morrison did not call it “Cotton Candy” but rather “Fairy Floss.” It was very successful at the fair. They sold the cotton candy in colorful wood boxes for 25¢ per box (about $6 by today’s standards). They sold 68,655 boxes for a total of $17,163.75 in sales during the 184 days the fair took place. It also took the prize of “Novelty of Invention.”
Dr. Morrison later became the President of the Tennessee State Dental Association. There is no mention on whether his patient numbers went up after his invention. . . . And the cotton candy itself? Well, it’s still delicious!
Other cotton candy facts:
- In addition to cotton candy, the 1904 World’s Fair debuted many other food items such as Dr. Pepper, Ice Cream cones and Cracker Jack.
- In the 1920s, the name “cotton candy” caught on for the airy sugary snack.
- The world’s largest cotton candy manufacturer is Tootsie Roll of Canada Ltd. They produce a bagged version of the sweet treat called “Fluffy Stuff.”
- The United States celebrates National Cotton Candy Day on December 7.
- A 1 ounce serving of cotton candy contains 105 calories and 26 grams of sugar. It has no fat, sodium or carbohydrates and actually contains less sugar than one can of pop.
- Because cotton candy is just colored sugar and air, it tastes the same today as it did when Morrison and Warton invented the machine.
Historic Hudson Valley, “Cotton Candy: The toothy history of a classic circus treat,” May 24, 2012.
Emily Wallace, “Where cotton candy comes from,” Indy Week, October 17, 2012.