Fairy floss is a timeless treat that generations have enjoyed. Perhaps you wouldn't expect your great-great-grandfather to have enjoyed it at the fair when he was a boy, but he probably did.
Fairy Floss in the Medieval Age
During medieval times, sugar was rare and expensive and only eaten by the rich. The lavish decoration of cakes with sugar formations began during this era. The sugar was spun and shaped into castles, dragons, and mythical creatures as entertainment for wealthy guests. This must have been quite a sight.
Fairy Floss in the 18th Century
The history of cotton candy dates back to the 18th century when confectioners started sharing recipes and techniques for making spun sugar (as sugar was known back then). Candy shops would make spun sugar-covered chocolate and spun sugar-covered Easter eggs and weird and wonderful concoctions.
Then, in 1899, John Wharton and William Morrison were granted a patent for a machine that allowed candy shops to automate the process of making spun sugar.
Fairy Floss in the 19th Century
The two inventors, Wharton and Morrison, were ready for the St. Louis World Fair, the fair's first-ever held. The fair introduced fairy floss, a treat that has not changed much since those early days. How many boxes of fairy floss did they sell?
They sold 69,000 boxes alone on their first day, each costing 25 cents. That was a lot of money: they made over $17,000 in one day! That's almost half a million dollars in today's currency.
In 1921, Joseph Lascaux, a dentist in New Orleans, Louisiana, patented a cotton candy producing device. With this invention, he also created the name cotton candy. The device was supposed to be used to introduce a sweet treat to Lascaux's patients; perhaps the most ingenious way to establish a long-lasting, successful dental practice!
Fairy Floss in the 20th Century
In 1950, fairy floss made its way from the circus to fancy hotels and restaurants. The Four Seasons added it to the menu in New York City, and restaurants started serving fairy floss in a martini glass to the customer's requested colour.
Over time, fairy floss got so popular that it moved out of fine dining establishments and into the supermarket freezer section. Fairy floss makers developed special machines to melt sugar, spin it into floss, and package it for frozen food aisles.
Fairy Floss in Australia
The fairy floss industry has become such a large part of the Australian economy that the Australian Government provides subsidies to the industry.
For a country known for its fairy floss-themed festivals and even an annual World Fairy Floss Day, it is no surprise that the Fairy Floss and Marshmallow Stick Manufacturing Association (FFSMA) received a 1.4 million dollar cash injection from the Australian Government.
A history lesson never tasted so good! So, the next time you are at the fair, and you see a family walking by with a bag or cone of fairy floss, you'll know that you're not only watching history in the making but that you're also enjoying a nostalgic treat.
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