Machine-spun cotton candy was introduced in 1897 by William Morrison and John C. Warton. The two Tennessee candy-makers invented the world’s first cotton candy machine.

In 1904, Morrison and Wharton took their cotton candy, which they called “fairy floss,” to the St. Louis World’s Fair. They sold each box for 25 cents. Though this may not seem like much today, it was half the price of an admission ticket to the fair back then!

Even though people may have thought the candy was expensive, they were willing to pay for it. Morrison and Wharton sold more than 68,000 boxes of fairy floss at the fair.

Though demand was high, the first cotton candy machines were very unreliable. They rattled and frequently broke down.

In 1949, Gold Metal Products of Cincinnati, Ohio, introduced a spring base for the machines that helped tremendously. Today, Gold Medal Products manufactures almost all cotton candy machines.

Ever wonder what happens inside the cotton candy machine? First, sugar is melted until it becomes a liquid. Then, the liquid sugar is spun as the machine forces it through tiny holes that shape and cool the liquid. After it cools, the sugar becomes a solid again.

The thousands of tiny crystallized sugar threads are then collected by gently rotating a paper cone around the inside of the machine. Once the puff of cotton candy is just the right size, it’s time to eat!

In case you’re curious about how cotton candy gets its signature pink and blue coloring, you may be surprised to find out that cotton candy, just like sugar, is naturally white. Pink and blue cotton candy is colored with food dyes.

Sweet facts about fairy floss:

  • National Cotton Candy Day is celebrated on November 7 each year.
  • There is only one ingredient in cotton candy: sugar.
  • There is about as much sugar in cotton candy as in a can of soda.


32 Join the Discussion

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  1. My teacher showed us the wonderopolis site, it was wonderful. We saw the Japanese Cherry Festival and the cotton candy.we all enjoyed learning facts and we have a wonder: why is tornado season in the spring?

    • That’s a GREAT Wonder, Anhar! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today!

      Did you know that you and your classmates can share your ideas for new Wonders anytime you like? Just click on the “nominate a wonder” link in the gray bar found at the top of every page at and let us know what you are wondering about! It’s really easy and fun…we can’t wait to hear from you! :-)

  2. I LOVE COTTON CANDY… my class we always have to read it…which i love and it is funny because you got to pick a favorite article and this one was my favorite! thanks for writing about it!

    Soon can you guys write a artical about the sport soccer? please

    I hope you guys can… :)

    • Hi, Sunshine! Because of your awesome comments, we know you already know about past Wonder of the Day® #16 – HOW OLD IS SOCCER? Here’s a link to that Wonder for other Wonder Friends: What other things do you WONDER about soccer?

      Have you tried nominating your own Wonder of the Day? You can tell us what you’re wondering about anytime you feel like it by clicking on the “nominate a wonder” link at the top of every page in! Try it out! :-)

  3. I love cotton candy!! It tastes really good. When it said that cotton candy machines were unreliable, I didn’t get it because I have seen the cotton candy machines and they are really cool. They are awesome and are really functional. I just couldn’t believe they ever broke down!!

  4. I think that it’s cool how two ordinary guys from Tennessee came up with the idea of cotton candy. I also thought that it was interesting how one of their names was the William, the same as mine. The next time I visit my cousins in Cincinnati, I’ll have to ask them about Gold Metal Products. I didn’t know that cotton candy or “Fairy Floss” had a holiday all for its self, November 7! Another thing that I learned is that there is only 1 ingredient in cotton candy, sugar. Another fun fact is that a serving of cotton candy only has as much sugar as an ordinary can of soda. Isn’t that amazing?!? I learned so much about cotton candy or “Fairy Floss” because of this wonder. Thanks, Wonderopolis!

    • WOW! You sure learned a lot of SWEET facts about cotton candy by exploring this Wonder, Will! We think that is AWESOME! :-)

  5. I think that this was a awesome wonder. I think the video was very cute. I learned that machine-spun cotton candy was introduced in 1897 by William Morrison and John C. Warton. I also didn’t know that it was originally called fairy floss and sold at 25 cents a box, and admission was 50 cents back then. I also didn’t know in 1949 Gold Metal Products of Cincinnati, Ohio introduced a spring base for the machines that really helped. This was a sweet wonder and I learned a lot.

    • We can tell you learned a lot about cotton candy, Olivia! We like how you used the word “sweet” to describe this Wonder of the Day®! That was super clever! :-)

    • We think it is neat to learn how cotton candy is made and to WONDER more about its SWEET history! Thanks for visiting this Wonder and leaving us a comment today, Jocelyn! :-)

  6. Hello Wonderopolis,
    I love cotton candy! Every time I go to the pool, I buy two bags of cotton candy. I like the name “fairy floss” more than cotton candy. Why did the name “fairy floss” change to cotton candy? That’s awesome that Morrison and Wharton sold more than 68000 boxes of cotton candy at the World Fair! I didn’t know that Gold Metal Products manufactures almost all cotton candy.

    • We think the term “fairy floss” is pretty cool, too, Team McNeil 2! Thanks for sharing that you always get two bags of cotton candy when you go to the pool…that sounds like FUN! We’re not sure when the popular name for cotton candy changed from fairy floss. We just know that cotton candy is a fun treat to share with friends! :-)

  7. I think the term ‘fairy floss’ is really cool the whole thing is cool so I decided to write a summary about it for school and it was awesome!!!

    • WOW, we’re so excited that you shared your comment with us, Bridget! We’re so glad that you were inspired to write a summary for school! Nice work! :)

  8. Hello wonderopolis I am in grade 5 and my class really loves this website we even had to make a summary on a wonder cool HUH. I did mine on who invented cotton candy perhaps mabye you guys here will get to read it someday.

    • Hey there Claire! We are so excited that you and your classmates are WONDERing on your own! That’s so great! We bet you had a SUPER time writing your cotton candy summary! :)

  9. Do you know that I love cotton candy. That was a great video also the girl was very cute. I want to know more about cotton candy Wonderopolis. I am very excited! I love your website. Because it is so cool. Bye Bye Wonderopolis.

    • YUM YUM, Janhavi! We are glad to know that you love cotton candy, too! We’re happy that you are interested in learning more about that delicious treat known as cotton candy! We Wonder if you can be a WONDERer of your own and research the tasty snack on the Internet? We would love to hear about what you find! :)

    • We’re glad to hear it, Wonder Friend Kate! We are getting hungry just thinking about that tasty cotton candy! :)

    • Hi Destiny! We’ve never had the chocolate kind of cotton candy! That sounds interesting! We’d love to try it! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who invented cotton candy?
  • What is cotton candy made of?
  • Can cotton candy be made in any color?

Wonder Gallery

Wonder #61- Cotton Candy Static ImageVimeo Video

Try It Out

It’s difficult to create the signature cotton candy puff without the right tools, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with sugar in your kitchen!

This guide will teach you and your child how to make sugar nests that will add a sweet finishing touch to any meal.


Still Wondering

While a little cotton candy every now and then probably won’t hurt you, you should be sure to watch what you eat. Visit Science NetLinks to learn more about the ways in which food provides energy and materials for our bodies.


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Wonder What’s Next?

Prepare to wash down today’s sweet treat with a deep sea wonder tomorrow. Make sure to bring your snorkel!

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