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History of Cotton Candy

When I first started my Cotton Candy business, I had no knowledge of the origin of Cotton Candy, so I decided to do some research.  What I found was very interesting.  Though there have been several different theories, it actually began in the 1400’s as a popular trend in Italy, called “spun sugar.”   This was made by melting sugar in a pan, then using a fork to make strings over an upside-down bowl.  As these strings dried, they would be served as a dessert.  This was not very practical, however, at least not for mass production; the process just took too long.


In the eighteenth century confectioners made many desserts from spun sugar, as well as spinning webs of gold and silver, used as decorations.  Spun Easter eggs were the favorite among Europeans. The methods varied, some using a utensil of some sort to make the threads (or webs), others made it into threads over an oiled rolling pin.  Though the techniques varied, and different levels of cooking skills were required, the results were almost always the same.  Unfortunately it was only enjoyed by the wealthy, due to the level of skill needed to create these desserts. 

In 1897, Candy makers William Morrison and John C. Wharton corrected these flaws though, by creating a machine that would melt the sugar and any flavoring and/or coloring and then use centrifugal force to push the melted mixture through a screen thus creating the strands of sugar.  Once the strands were collected in a pan or bowl, they were twirled onto a paper or cardboard cone and ready to eat.

One of its first world debuts was in 1900 at the Paris Exposition and then again in 1904 at the St. Louis World Fair.  Morrison and Wharton sold boxes of “Fairy Floss” at the St. Louis World Fair for 25 cents a box.  Back in 1904, this was quite a bit, costing half the admission price to the Fair.  In spite of the high price, the two sold an amazing 68,655 boxes totaling $17.163.75!  Approximately one year later, a candy store had purchased a machine and was selling Cotton Candy for 5-10 cents.

The name “Cotton Candy” emerged in America around 1920, thus replacing “spun sugar” and “Fairy Floss.” A few alternative names are still being used throughout the world, however, such as the United Kingdom, where it is called “candy floss.”

One company created a machine in the late 1940’s that would revolutionize the Cotton Candy industry; in the 1970's, another company changed it forever by creating an automatic Cotton Candy machine.  It could now be mass produced and packaged automatically.