Something close to what we call cotton candy existed all the way back in the 1700s. A chef would melt sugar into syrup, draw out a thin line of liquid with a knife, then spin the result by hand. This took a huge amount of labor and could really make just a tiny bit of spun sugar, perhaps enough to decorate some larger dessert. 

If you wanted giant puffs of cotton candy as big as your torso, however, you needed a cotton candy machine. And for that, you had to wait for 1897, when one was invented by William Morrison, a dentist.

Let's get the obvious joke out of the way: Clearly, Dr. Morrison was trying to ruin people's teeth to drum up more business. Seriously, though, the idea for cotton candy came from a candy maker named John Wharton, who contacted Morrison to design the machine because the doctor had a lot of experience with inventing stuff. He'd previously invented a new method for purifying water and a process for making margarine out of cotton seed oil. 

When the two debuted their new candy at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, they called it "fairy floss," a fitting name for a dentist to think up. Australia still calls it that, while England prefers "candy floss." In 1921, someone from New Orleans named Joseph Lascaux came up with a new type of machine, one just distinct enough not to violate Morrison's patent, and he dubbed his creation "cotton candy." That new name stuck.

Joseph Lascaux was, believe it or not, also a dentist. Suddenly the idea of a dental conspiracy here seems like more than just a joke. But whether or not dentists really do want your teeth to rot, they definitely do like making money, and cotton candy made plenty of that. When he first sold cotton candy, Morrison made about half a million in today's dollars in eight months, selling each box for the 1904 equivalent of $7.50. That's not bad for a couple teaspoons of sugar, which costs just pennies. 

This fact came from the new One Cracked Fact newsletter. Want more like this, straight from your email inbox, without any ads or popups? Join here: 

For more sweet facts, check out:

The Cotton Candy Machine Is A Death Trap

Cotton Candy Can Be Used to Create Artificial Human Organs

4 Hilariously Dystopian Ways Science Is Reinventing Food

Top image: Yarden/Unsplash

Forgot Password?