It’s October, which means it’s the middle of State Fair time in Texas and Halloween is approaching throughout the entire world. It seems like an appropriate time to talk about candy.
In this case… cotton candy. It’s nothing more (and nothing less) than extremely delicate threads of spun sugar. The process of creating it has been known for hundreds of years, but the process of making huge quantities rapidly is a comparatively recent development.
The first device to make the crystallized sugar treat was created in 1897 by confectioner John C. Wharton and inventor William Morrison. A perforated metal head was placed into a large bowl. The head was filled with sugar and then heated as a shaft connected to the head spun at a high speed; as the sugar melted it whipped out and was collected in the bowl, forming thin strands which resembled spiderwebs.
It was called an “electric candy machine”, and it was not an overnight success. People enjoyed the candy, but the machine was loud and it vibrated. The pair were convinced they had a hit on their hands, but people would need to see the machine in action… and more importantly, taste the candy.
This was their mindset when they set up shop at the 1904 World’s Fair, selling boxes of what they called “Fairy floss”. Their suspicions were proven correct: the treat was a hit at the fair, and their new venture was a success.
They couldn’t figure out how to fix the rattling issue, and neither could Josef Lascaux, a man who attempted to correct the vibration about twenty years later. Lascaux did manage to put his mark on the history of “fairy floss” however, when he renamed the confection “cotton candy”.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about the development of cotton candy is the primary profession of inventors Morrison and Lascaux. While they were happy to tinker with mechanical and electrical devices, both were far better known for their “day jobs”… they were dentists.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite fair or carnival food?