Fairs have become synonymous with the melt in your mouth sugary flavors of cotton candy. Memories of childhood for many people include the sticky, sugary sensation of eating cotton candy. More than 100 years ago, cotton candy did not even exist. However, the origins of cotton candy directly correlate to the wide use of electricity and inventive men who wanted to create new confectionary treats. One gathering in particular immortalized cotton candy as a carnival fixture.
Four men were responsible for invention of cotton candy, Thomas Patton, Joseph Lascaux, John C. Wharton, and William Morrison. In 1897, Morrison and Wharton, two candy makers from Nashville, Tennessee, created an electric candy-making machine. Their inventions worked by using centrifugal force to spin sugar, then melting it through small holes. Morrison and Wharton got a patent for their candy-making machine in 1899.
In 1904, the two cotton candy inventors demonstrated their technique to the world at the St. Louis
World’s Fair. People attending the fair were intrigued by this new invention. Morrison and Wharton sold approximately 68,000 boxes of cotton candy at the fair for a mere 25 cents a box. At the end of the World’s Fair, they earned $17,163.75 from the event. That estimates to approximately half a million according to today’s standards; therefore, their invention, which they called “Fairy Floss,” was an outstanding success.
Around the same time, Patton began work on his version of the cotton candy machine. At the turn of the century, he patented a gas-powered devise that contained rotating plates that caramelized sugar while spinning. The machine worked by boiling the sugar as it was rotating. He used a fork to thread the cotton candy. Instead of serving his cotton candy in a box, he served his on a cone.
In 1921, New Orleans dentist Lascaux worked on and patented a machine that created cotton candy. Like Morrison and Wharton, his machine utilized electricity and centrifugal force to make cotton candy. To add to the irony of a dentist making a sugary treat, Lascaux served his confection to his dental patients. What better way to make sure he continued having customers at his day job. He, however, didn’t call his creation fairy floss. He is credited with calling the sweet treat cotton candy.
In 1949, cotton candy history transformed when Gold Medal Products introduced a device that had a spring base. This machine was an improvement on previous cotton candy devices. This new machine made the process easier and a staple of county fairs, circuses and school carnivals and fundraiser events.
Now, people can enjoy cotton candy in different flavors such as bubble gum, grape and strawberry. The colors pink and blue are the two most popular types purchased at events. Interestingly, although cotton candy is made of pure sugar, it contains less sugar than a 20 oz. soft drink.
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