How a Dentist with a Sweet Tooth Invented Cotton Candy

© Liesl Henrichsen

By Annie Quigley Posted July 06, 2015

Here's a fun fact that proves that truth is stranger than fiction: Cotton candy as we know it was invented by a dentist.

In this series, we reveal the secrets, histories and quirky bits of trivia behind your favorite foods.

Here's a fun fact that proves that truth is stranger than fiction: Cotton candy was invented by a dentist.

You read that right. While spun sugar originated in Europe as early as the 1400s, the extremely high price of sugar made the fanciful wisps prohibitively expensive for anyone but the upper classes. It wasn't until the late 1800s that the fluffy, cloud-like candy was made available to the masses. It's all thanks to William Morrison, a young dentist with a surprising sweet tooth. In 1897, he teamed up with Nashville candy maker John C. Wharton to invent an electric candy machine, a round drum that used centrifugal force to puff sugar into fluffy, flourescent beehives of pure sugar—what we know today as cotton candy. The duo premiered their sticky, sugary treat, which they called "fairy floss," several years later at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis (where fairgoers also slurped down iced tea for the first time). Ever since then, cotton candy has been a fairground staple.

So we can thank Dr. William Morrison for cotton candy—and probably countless cavities. It may have been the most brilliant marketing scheme of all time, now that we think of it.

Related: Cotton Candy, Turkish Style
America's Wacky Fair Foods
F&W's Ultimate Candy Guide

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