Who Invented Cotton Candy?

Cotton candy, that fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth confection, has been a beloved treat for generations.

Its airy texture and sweet taste have made it a staple at carnivals, amusement parks, and fairs worldwide. But do you know the fascinating history of this delightful dessert?

Originally called “Fairy Floss,” cotton candy has a surprising origin that dates back to the early 20th century.

In this article, we’ll explore the inventive minds behind cotton candy, its debut at the World’s Fair, and how it has transformed over the years.

Also, see Who Invented Scratch and Sniff Stickers? to learn more.

pink cotton candy
When was the first cotton candy machine invented? See below

The Inventors: William Morrison and John C. Wharton

Cotton candy, that sugary delight we all know and love, wouldn’t exist without the innovative minds of William Morrison and John C. Wharton.

Their unlikely partnership – Morrison, a dentist, and Wharton, a confectioner – led to the creation of the first electric cotton candy machine in 1897.

Together, they developed a device that could heat and spin sugar into thin threads, transforming it into the fluffy treat we recognize today.

Despite his dental background, Morrison didn’t shy away from the sugary world of confections.

He collaborated with Wharton to patent their “spun sugar” invention and began marketing it under the whimsical name “Fairy Floss.”

The term “cotton candy” wouldn’t be adopted until decades later.

Morrison and Wharton’s creation was a novelty at the time, capturing the imagination of those who encountered it and setting the stage for cotton candy’s widespread popularity.

Their machine worked by heating granulated sugar until it became a liquid.

It was then forced through tiny holes in a spinning disc, creating fine strands of sugar that solidified as they cooled in the air.

These strands were collected and served as the fluffy, sweet treat we now associate with childhood memories and fun-filled days at the fair.

Morrison and Wharton’s inventive spirit paved the way for the cotton candy we enjoy today.

Their groundbreaking machine transformed a simple ingredient – sugar – into a delightful confection that has brought smiles to countless faces over the years.

When did cotton candy make its debut? See below

Cotton Candy’s Debut and Name Change

Cotton candy, initially called “Fairy Floss,” made a grand debut at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

Morrison and Wharton showcased their sweet invention, capturing the attention and taste buds of thousands of visitors.

The fluffy confection was an immediate hit, selling at an impressive 25 cents per box – a substantial price at the time.

It quickly became synonymous with amusement parks, circuses, and fairs, creating lasting memories for generations.

Despite its initial success as “Fairy Floss,” the beloved treat underwent a name change in the 1920s.

Another candy maker, Josef Lascaux, began marketing the sugary confection under the name “Cotton Candy.”

This new moniker, inspired by the treat’s fluffy texture and resemblance to spun cotton, resonated with the public and became the universally recognized name we use today.

The popularity of cotton candy continued to soar throughout the 20th century and beyond.

Its delightful taste, playful appearance and association with fun events have cemented its place in popular culture.

Today, cotton candy remains a cherished treat for both children and adults alike, evoking a sense of nostalgia and joy with every sugary bite.

blue cotton candy
How has cotton candy changed over time? See below

Cotton Candy Today: Variations and Innovations

The cotton candy we know today has come a long way from its early days as “Fairy Floss” at the World’s Fair.

Modern cotton candy machines have evolved significantly since Morrison and Wharton’s original invention, allowing for greater efficiency and creativity in producing this beloved treat.

Cotton candy has expanded beyond the traditional pink and blue colors, with a plethora of flavors and hues available to delight the senses.

Innovation has fueled the cotton candy industry, giving rise to unique creations such as cotton candy burritos, cotton candy art, and cotton candy-infused desserts.

These imaginative twists on the classic treat have brought a new level of excitement and intrigue to the world of confections.

Today’s cotton candy machines are more sophisticated and versatile, capable of producing finer strands of sugar and catering to various flavors and color preferences.

The process of making cotton candy remains largely unchanged – heating and spinning sugar to create a fluffy confection – but the options for customization have grown exponentially.

Cotton candy’s enduring appeal is evident in its continued popularity at carnivals, fairs, and special events.

It has become an integral part of celebrations, adding a touch of whimsy and sweetness to any occasion.

Cotton candy has firmly established itself as a timeless treat, embodying the essence of childhood wonder and the joy of indulging in life’s simple pleasures.


Cotton candy, once a novel invention at the 1904 World’s Fair, has become a staple of childhood memories and festive celebrations.

Its transformation from “Fairy Floss” to the cotton candy we know today is a testament to the enduring appeal of this fluffy, sugary treat.

As we’ve seen, the creative minds of William Morrison and John C. Wharton were instrumental in bringing this delightful confection to life.

Today, cotton candy continues to captivate our taste buds with a wide range of flavors, colors, and inventive twists.

It remains a symbol of joy and nostalgia, transporting us back to carefree days at the fair or carnival.

Cotton candy’s enduring popularity is a testament to its timeless appeal and its ability to evoke a sense of wonder and happiness in people of all ages.

As we look to the future, cotton candy will undoubtedly continue to evolve and adapt, bringing smiles to new generations.

Its journey from a World’s Fair novelty to a beloved treat worldwide is a story of innovation, creativity, and the simple pleasure of indulging in life’s sweet moments.

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