Movie star Jean Harlow praises Lucky Strike cigarettes' use of the clear sealing material -  "It's a real delight to find a cellophane wrapper that opens without an ice pick."



"Cellophane, Mr. Cellophane..."

Cellophane was invented by Swiss chemist Jacques E. Brandenberger while employed by Blanchisserie et Teinturerie de Thaon. Inspired by seeing a wine spill on a restaurant's tablecloth, he decided to create a cloth that could repel liquids rather than absorb them. His first step was a waterproof spray coating made of viscose. The coated fabric was stiff, but the clear film easily separated from the backing cloth, and he abandoned his original idea in favor of the new filmy material.

It took ten years for Brandenberger to improve the film by adding glycerin to soften the material. By 1912 he had a machine to manufacture the film, which he had named Cellophane, from the words cellulose and diaphane ("transparent"). Cellophane was patented that year. The following year, Comptoir des Textiles Artificiels (CTA) bought the Thaon firm's interest in Cellophane and established Brandenberger in a new company, La Cellophane.





Whitman's candy company first used cellophane in 1912 for wrapping

their "Whitman's Sampler." They imported cellophane from France

until nearly 1924, when DuPont built the first cellophane plant in the U.S.


Cellophane saw limited sales in the US at first since while it was waterproof, it was not moisture proof—it held water but was permeable to water vapor and not suited to products requiring moisture proofing. Du Pont's chemist William Hale Charch, developed a nitrocellulose lacquer that, when applied to Cellophane, made it moisture proof in 1927. The material's sales tripled between 1928 and 1930. In 1938, Cellophane accounted for 10% of Du Pont's sales and 25% of its profits. It's use as a wrapper for cigarettes began in 1933. Cellophane is the most popular material for cigar packaging because of its permeability to moisture as cigars must be allowed to "breathe" while in storage.


Cellulose film has been manufactured continuously since the mid-1930s and is still used today. The word "cellophane" has become genericized in the US, and is often used informally to refer to a wide variety of plastic film products, even those not made of cellulose. Cellophane sales have dwindled due to use of alternative packaging options. Viscose has polluting effects of carbon disulfide and other by-products of the process. However, cellophane is 100% biodegradable.