William J. Morrison (1860-1926): co-inventor of the cotton candy machine

J Hist Dent. 2005 Jul;53(2):51-6.


William James Morrison (1860-1926), from Nashville, Tennessee was a noted dentist, lawyer, author and leader in civic and political affairs. An 1890 graduate of the University of Tennessee Dental College, Dr. Morrison became President of the Tennessee State Dental Association in 1894. He had a wide interest in both science and politics, and was personally associated with both William Jennings Bryan and President Woodrow Wilson. Additionally, he was a popular author of children's books and particularly effective in fostering reading among youngsters. Also, Dr. Morrison patented several important inventions. He developed a process for extracting oils from cotton seed, and converting them into a lard substitute. Likewise, he devised a chemical process to purify the public drinking water for Nashville. In 1897, he and John C. Wharton (a fellow Nashville candy maker) conceived and co-patented an "electric candy machine" which produced cotton candy (then called "Fairy Floss".) This article provides background information about the production of spun sugar during medieval times and later, it describes the development of their cotton candy machine, the process of its operation and details about its eventual worldwide commercialization. In addition, it discusses the introduction of this new confection to the public, during the 184 day, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, held in St. Louis, MO. in 1904. In late 1926, Dr. Morrison, died of a stroke at age 66.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Candy / history*
  • History of Dentistry*
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Medieval
  • Tennessee
  • Water Purification / history

Personal name as subject

  • William J Morrison