At the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, the oddest of partners introduced a wickedly sweet confection that figured to further the careers of both: Cotton candy.
Actually, it was seven years earlier that John C. Wharton, a candy maker, and William Morrison, a dentist, invented a machine by which to heat and liquefy sugar, then rapidly cool it into strands through a centrifugal spinner. But it was in St. Louis that they prospered from it, selling 68,655 bags of cotton candy for 25 cents each over the fair's six-month run -- a windfall equivalent to $515,000 in today's money.
While the sugary treat continues to be a staple of fairs the world over 117 years later (and Shaws continued to carry it until its February 2020 closing), cotton candy has been widely overlooked by the artisan confectioners that have sprung up around the Bay Area in recent years. So when new owner Diana Zogaric found a cotton candy spinner among the relics as she began the demolition process of the 90-year-old store last year, she simply pushed it into a back room to consider its fate for another day.
Then last month, she got a call from a San Francisco woman throwing a retro birthday party for her daughter. The women admitted to conducting an alphabetical search of every confectioner in the city in search of a cotton candy machine, and by the time she got to the ones beginning with "S" she was running out of hope.
But she was in luck. Diana went rummaging around the back room to check on the state of a machine which she suspected might predate her. She and her daughter Frankie got the machine to fire right up. After a proper cleaning, it spun out cotton candy like a champ. The woman was delighted -- and Shaws has officially re-introduced the retro treat!
Stop in for a combo bag of pink and blue cotton candy -- just $4 for a sticky sweet stroll down memory lane.
And while William Morrison is long gone, 4 out of 5 dentists approve (the other 20% have already paid off their vacation homes in Lake Tahoe).