History of Cotton Candy

Cotton candy is a form of heated sugar, spun to produce a fluffy confectionary treat.  Typically, it is served on a stick or cone and comes in several different flavors.  Cotton candy is often sold at carnivals, theme parks, ballgames and other special events.  Even though it is made of pure sugar, the treat only contains about 115 calories.

The advent of cotton candy started with Venetians pastry chefs in the15th-century.  These artesian Cotton Candy Machinesconfectioners would create dessert masterpieces with the liquefied sugar by drizzling syrup down a stick, and then work the “pliable threads into different shapes and even entire scenes.” 1 The chefs would also decorate plates of preserved fruits with the spun sugar.

In the mid 18th century, confectioners in America and Europe spun liquefied sugar into thin webs for extravagant holiday dessert decorations.  This candy was all done by hand, which made the process very time-consuming and expensive.  In effect, only wealthy people could afford the treat and it never became popular. 2

The history of modern cotton candy starts around the turn of the nineteenth century. In fact, four different individuals can be given credit for the invention.  In 1897, William Morrison and John Wharton of Nashville, TN claimed to have crafted the first cotton candy machine, and received a U.S. patent in 1899.  Thomas Patton also patented a cotton candy machine and presented it to the Ringling Bros in 1900.  Around the same time, Josef Lascaux, a dentist from Louisiana - introduced cotton candy at his dental office in 1921. 5

Regardless of which inventor gets full credit for the idea, Morrison and Wharton seem to have modernized the entire manufacturing process. Their electric machine was similar to the cotton candy machines found today.  This unit heated the sugar until it was liquefied, then centrifuge forced the liquid through small holes to produce thin, hair-like fibers – hence, the name “fair floss.”  Their new invention was a hit at the 1904 World’s Fair when they sold over 68,655 boxes. 3

In 1900, Thomas Patton received a patent for his cotton candy maker. 4 Unlike Wharton and Morrison electric unit, his gas powered machine caramelized the sugar by heating it up to 320 degree, then spinning a plate around to create fine cotton candy strands which were placed on a cone. Supposedly, Patton introduced his cotton candy maker to Ringling Bros Circus in 1900, but some historians contend this date may not be true.  Why? Ringling Brothers did not merge with Barnum and Bailey until in 1919.

Joseph Lascaux invented his cotton candy machine around 1921. A notable dentist in New Orleans, Louisiana, he introduced the sweet confection to his dental patients. Lascaux’s machine used centrifugal force and electricity as well, but his patent called the sweet stuff “cotton candy.”  In effect, the name cotton candy was born and it stuck with Americans. 5

Since the invention of cotton candy, very little has changed in the manufacturing process. However, there are a lot new exciting new cotton candy flavors and colors to enjoy – pink bubble, blue raspberry, strawberry, pina colada, and more.  We have a wide selection of cotton candy makers and supplies as well.


1. Venzon, Christine (December 3, 2009). "How Stuff Works Inc. "How Cotton Candy Works: Spun Sugar – Sweet Science." Web. 14 Sept. 2011". Retrieved June 21 2012.

2. Food Timline > FAQ Candies. Web. Retrieved May 11, 2012

3. Vaughan, Erin.  "Cool Cotton Candy Facts Web." Retrieved May 14, 2012

4. Cotton Candy | National Confectioners Association.  Web. Retrieved June 18, 2012

5.   Richard, Cicely (April 4, 2008) “ - The Origins of Cotton Candy”  Web. Retrieved June 18, 2012