Cotton candy, alias fairy floss or spun sugar, began as a dessert in Italy and Iran in the 1400′s. At that time it was known only as Spun Sugar. The confection was considered a delicacy as heated sugar was hand mixed and forks were used to make long thin strings of sugar. This process was very time consuming, as they had to allow for the sugar strands to dry. For centuries, European chefs used this hands on method to create sugary webs to form Easter eggs, cake toppings and other spectacular edibles.
It wasn’t until 1897, nearly four hundred years later, when Tennessee candy makers, William Morrison and his business partner, John C Wharton, created a machine to heat and spin the sugar, did it become a profitable dessert sold at the circus and fairs.
Morrison and Wharton’s machine eliminated the time involved melting down and drying out the sugar, as well the hand and fork method. Their machine involved a huge bowl that heated up enough to break down the sugar and then spun with centrifugal force to dry out the confection. A hand-held cone-shaped piece of cardboard was used to capture the dried sugar strings. As the candy makers hand spun the one way, the bowl spun the other allowing a round web of the dried sugary dessert to gather on the cone. This was the first Cotton Candy. Although they called it Fairy Floss.
Fairy Floss debut came in 1904 at the St Louis World’s Fair. Morrison and Wharton set up a small booth and sold their sugary confection for 25 cents a box. It was considered outrageously expensive as the price for admittance into the World’s Fair was 50 cents. People were outraged when they saw Morrison and Wharton selling a dessert for half the price of the entire fair. Despite the high cost and complaints, they sold nearly 70,000 boxes at the fair. Just goes to show you, Americans have always had a sweet tooth and cost will not deter it.
Soon candy stores and five and dimes across America and the World were purchasing Morrison’s and Wharton’s Fairy Floss machine. Some store owners called it Spun Sugar and others kept the Fairy Floss name. It wasn’t until the 1920′s they came up with a more uniform name for the sugary concoction. ” Cotton Candy”. At least that is what we Americans call it. Europeans kept names such as Candy Floss and Fairy Floss. No matter what you call it, it’s delicious.
Today, Cotton Candy is sold at just about every event held in the World. It has become popular enough for grocery stores to sell bags of it in the candy isles. Though cotton candy comes in many different colors, pink has always been the most popular. The ever diverse rainbow runs a close second. In the past 112 years, technology has allowed for more productivity, however, the machine created in 1897, is basically still used, with only a few modifications.