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Dean George is the Marketing Specialist and Content Creator for Dental Insurance
Store and its social media channels. He is a regular contributor to Agent Straight Talk, the
only consumer blog explaining the ins, outs and in-betweens of dental insurance and
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Like Kids in a Cotton Candy Store

Jul 26, 2016

By Dean George

Every now and then it’s good to sink your teeth into a good fluff piece, isn’t it? What could be fluffier than cotton candy?

Even a good fluff article has to contain some substance though; otherwise all that sugar crystallizes in our brain cells and rots our cognitive thinking process. Before you realize it, you may find yourself squeezing shampoo on your toothbrush and washing your hair with the kids’ toothpaste.

Agent Straight-Talk readers may recall a previous post titled, “Life is Like a Box of Caramels.” In it we introduced Sindhura (Jenny) Citineni, a North Carolina dentist and her husband-business partner, Tommy Thekkekandam. Together the couple introduced a non-sticky, gluten-free caramel sweetened with Xylitol

The entrepreneurial couple started Tom & Jenny’s because of a desire to create a tooth-friendly candy that tasted good and was good for you.

Recently, we learned there was a precedent for a dentist being involved in the candy business, though we doubt that the American Dental Association (ADA) considers Fairy Floss, aka cotton candy, as tooth-friendly as a natural sweetened caramel.

A Tennessee dentist named William James Morrison is credited with co-inventing an “electric candy machine” in 1897 that spun a fluffy, sweet-tasting delicacy.  

Dr. Morrison was more than just a dentist, however. He was President of the Tennessee State Dental Association in 1894 (just four years after graduating from the University of Tennessee Dental College), a lawyer, inventor, and a children’s author.

The talented Dr. Morrison was also acquaintances with three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and America’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson.

Like another “Renaissance man” that we wrote about in No Sour Grapes From This Dentist, Dr. Morrison was an inquisitive man of many diverse interests. Dr. Morrison patented several inventions, including a purification process for Nashville, Tennessee’s public water supply, and a lard substitute made from extracting oil from cotton seeds.

His sweetest invention though, was co-inventing an electric machine that allowed crystallized sugar to be poured onto a heated spinning plate, spun rapidly and pushed through small holes using centrifugal force, making it fluffy and full of air.

Teamed up with friend and candy making comrade John C. Wharton, the duo formed the Electric Candy Company and named their confection, Fairy Floss. After a few years tinkering with their electric candy machine, they decided to share their invention with the public and what better place than the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

Dr. Morrison and Wharton sold their fairy floss in small wooden boxes for 25 cents each, or $6 in today’s dollars. Over the next six months of the World’s Fair, Dr. Morrison and Wharton sold 68,655 boxes of Fairy Floss. You might say it was like taking cotton candy from a baby. If $17,163.75 over six months doesn’t impress, perhaps its translation into today’s dollars will: $438,344!

Their Fairy Floss invention was awarded the 1904 World’s Fair “Novelty of Invention” prize and the sweet and fluffy treat quickly spread from St. Louis to around the country. Selling Fairy Floss proved easier over time than maintaining the machines that made it, though.

Morrison’s electric candy machine shook and rattled, overheated and would randomly shut off. Building replacement machines to scale proved difficult, and when Dr. Morrison’s patent expired in 1917, coincidentally the person who tried reinventing the machine was also a dentist.

Louisiana dentist Josef Lascaux was partially successful with his reinvention efforts, successfully spinning enough cotton candy to satisfy his Louisiana patients and help spread the word about the new confection in bayou country.

Unfortunately, just as Dr. Morrison experienced, Lascaux’s efforts to reinvent the production process encountered some sticky predicaments too, most notably failing to patent his improvements.

Dr. Lascaux’s main claim to fame was renaming Fairy Floss to the name it's known by today: cotton candy.

Chances are you won’t find any dentists today offering cotton candy to their patients, although there’s no denying the fact that those who regularly enjoy sugar are more likely to need treatment for cavities sooner rather than later.

That may make the idea tempting, but knowing what we know about the harmful effects of sugar today, health-conscious dentists are more apt to participate in candy buyback programs and suggest helpful apps and toothpastes that help people take better care of their teeth.

Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk, and remember: parting may be sweet sorrow, but happiness is following us on  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, or LinkedIn.  Happiness usually involves smiling, and for plans that can help maintain sweet smiles, click here.

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Copyright 2016, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC  

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