Cotton candy is a popular food at carnivals, amusement parks, fairgrounds or circuses. Its fibrous texture makes it unique among sugar confectioneries.
Sugar confectioneries have been made for thousands of years, but the invention of cotton candy is a relatively recent event. Sweet gold rings which resembled molten glass in appearance, the predecessor to cotton candy, were developed by European chefs. They were sticky and could be made in many shapes. Cotton candy was introduced when the sugar industry advanced.
The first electrical cotton candy machine was invented in 1897 by William Morrison and John C. Wharton, candy maker from Nashville and they presented cotton candy to a wide audience at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair as Fairy Floss with great success, selling 68.655 boxes at the then-high 25$, which was half of the cost of admission to the fair. They obtained a patent to protect this machine. A year later, fairy floss machines were being sold to candy stores. Since the invention of modern day cotton candy, very little has changed with regards to this device. It operated much like cotton candy machines today by heating the sugar to a liquid state and push the liquid through a screen to create the strands of sugar. There have been improvements in the design of machine and to increase reliability, because early cotton candy machines rattled and broke down constantly, but the concept remained the same. In the 1920s fairy floss was renamed to cotton candy.
In 1900, Thomas Patton received a separate patent for his work with caramelized sugar and forming long threads of it with a fork. He later used a gas-fired rotating plate to spin the threads.
In 1949, Gold Metal Products of Cincinnati, Ohio introduced a cotton candy machine with a spring base that helped tremendously. Today, it manufactures almost all cotton candy machines.
Due to the lack of automated machines that could produce enough products for widespread distribution prior to the 1970s, cotton candy was only produced on a small scale. Then, in 1972, a cotton candy machine for automatic manufacture and packaging was patented. It allowed the mass production of cotton candy. Tootsie Roll of Canada Ltd., the world's largest cotton-candy manufacturer, makes a fluffy stuff, fruit-flavored version of cotton candy.
Today, cotton candy is available in many different flavors including banana, raspberry, vanilla, watermelon, and chocolate. Both artificial and natural flavors may be used for the production of these flavors.
The National Cotton Candy Day is a day dedicated to cotton candy in the United States which is celebrated on December 7.