Cotton Candy Was Invented by a Dentist

The next time you grab a handful of cotton candy and subject your teeth to an onslaught of almost 100% sugar, you can thank a couple of dentists for inventing it.

OK, that statement is a wee bit misleading. The practice of making candy out of spun sugar has been around at least since the 19th century and possibly as much as three hundred years before that. Making it by hand was an expensive, complicated process, however, so most people lived out their lives without sampling the sugary goodness.

It was a Tennessee dentist by the name of William Morrison who teamed up with confectioner John Wharton in 1897 to create the first machine-generated cotton candy. Morrison and Wharton developed a device that heated sugar in a spinning bowl with small holes. They called the candy “Fairy Floss” and introduced it to the public at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The product was an immediate hit. They sold 68,655 boxes at 25¢ each. The revenue of $17,163.75 was the equivalent of $501,868.05 in 2021.

Another dentist, Joseph Lascaux, of Louisiana, invented a similar candy-making device in 1921. He called his candy “Cotton Candy.” The name stuck everywhere except Australia, where it is still called “Fairy Floss.”

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