The History of Cotton Candy

Cotton candy is far more than a children’s treat—it’s an engineering marvel, a cultural phenomenon, and, yes, a dentist’s nightmare.

From its invention in the late 19th century to its current gourmet transformation, here’s a more exhaustive look at how cotton candy has spun its way into our hearts.

The Origins: When Sugar Met Science

Before the cotton candy machine, there was just sugar and elbow grease. Artisanal versions of spun sugar have been part of global cuisines for centuries. However, the mass production of this sugary delight had to wait for science to catch up.

Enter Dr. William Morrison and John C. Wharton in 1897. The duo created a machine that melted sugar and spun it into fine strands using centrifugal force, making mass production a reality.

World’s Fair Debut: The Birth of Fairy Floss

The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis was more than an exhibition; it was a coming-out party for numerous inventions. Among Ferris wheels and hot dogs, “Fairy Floss” made its debut.

Morrison and Wharton sold their invention for 25 cents a box, raking in what would be thousands in today’s money. Clearly, they were onto something.

The Cotton Candy Name Game

Fast forward to the 1920s; the name “cotton candy” began to overshadow “Fairy Floss.” Another dentist, Joseph Lascaux, was behind this. He improved upon the original machine and patented it under the name we all know and love today.

Coincidence or irony that dentists were spearheading this? You decide.

The Sweet Spread: Mid-20th Century Expansion

By mid-20th century, cotton candy had gone mainstream. It became synonymous with funfairs, baseball games, and outdoor festivals.

If there was a gathering, you could bet your last dollar that a cotton candy cart was there. It was no longer an exotic World’s Fair marvel but a staple of American leisure.

Cotton Candy Goes DIY: The Home Revolution

In the 1970s, the first home cotton candy machines hit the market. Spun sugar wasn’t just for carnivals anymore; it had invaded domestic life. There were now cotton candy cookbooks, DIY kits, and an array of sugar flavors to keep the home-spun fun going.

The Modern Makeover: Gourmet and Beyond

Today, cotton candy is not just child’s play. Gourmet versions have made their way into Michelin-starred restaurants, with flavors like truffle, lavender, and champagne making appearances.

The sugary cloud has also found its way into cocktails, proving its versatility.

Cotton Candy in Pop Culture

Let’s not forget its iconic status in pop culture. From movies to music videos, cotton candy is more than food; it’s an emblem of joy, nostalgia, and sometimes, excess.


From “Fairy Floss” to contemporary gourmet incarnations, cotton candy has spun an indelible impact on both our taste buds and cultural psyche. It has been, and will likely continue to be, a sweet reminder of human ingenuity and the simple joys of life.