History of Cellulose Acetate

History of cellulose acetate

In 1908, brothers Camille and Henri Dreyfus began their lifelong work with cellulose acetate in Basel, Switzerland. The Dreyfus brothers researched and developed cellulose acetate products for the film industry and were in search of a nonflammable alternative to celluloid. It was soon discovered that cellulose acetate was a well-suited product for the development of fiber applications as well, and they began to create products with unprecedented solubility and high viscosity.a

The Dreyfus’ developments in acetate lacquers and plastic film were sold largely to the celluloid industry in Germany and France, and to Pathe Fréres in Paris for nonflammable motion picture film base. A small, but growing amount of acetate lacquer, called dope, was sold to the expanding aircraft industry to coat wing coverings and fuselage, an important resource during World War I.

Production during the war delayed commercialization of acetate fiber, however the demand from the Allied Governments for this lacquer/dope would help to establish factories in the United States and England.a

Much effort was put into developing an efficient and effective dye process for cellulose acetate during this time. Soon, acetate yarn was being dyed in a wide range of colors and shades. It was sufficiently colorfast for the commercial markets, especially consumer applications.a

  • 1905: Swiss brothers Camille and Henri Dreyfus develop the first commercial process to manufacture cellulose acetate.
  • 1918: Under the direction of Camille Dreyfus, American Cellulose and Chemical Manufacturing Company was incorporated in the state of Delaware and the Cumberland plant is named Amcelle, after the company name. This marks the beginning of Celanese in America.
  • 1921: British Celanese begins commercial production of acetate yarn.b
  • 1924: Celanese opens the first commercial acetate filament operation in Cumberland, Maryland. On Christmas Day, Amcelle spun the first acetate yarn in the United States.
  • 1927: American Cellulose and Chemical Manufacturing Company changed its name to Celanese Corporation of America.b
  • 1928: Eastman Chemical Company builds its first pilot plant for the production of cellulose acetate yarn, which would go into large scale production by 1931.c
  • 1937: Eastman begins manufacturing acetate dyestuffs.c
  • 1938: Daicel begins manufacturing cellulose acetate.
  • 1939: The Celanese Celco plant in Narrows, Virginia begins operations on Christmas Day.
  • 1947: Celanese opens a manufacturing facility in Ocotlan, Jalisco, Mexico, with the production of acetate filament.
  • 1952: Eastman introduces Chromspun solution-dyed yarn.c
  • 1956: Ryoko Acetate Co., Ltd. (renamed Mitsubishi Vonnel Co., Ltd. in 1958) established to begin commercial production of acetate fiber (absorbed by Mitsubishi Rayon Co., Ltd. in 1989).d
  • 1956: Celanese begins to supply Acetate Tow.
  • 1958: Mitsubishi starts production of Carolan (now Lynda) diacetate filament. d
  • 1958: Daicel begins manufacturing filter tow.
  • 1962: Mitsubishi Carolan diacetate tow begins. d
  • 1965: Celanese opens a manufacturing facility in Lanaken, Belgium.
  • 1967: Mitsubishi Soalon triacetate fiber production begins. d
  • 1989: First Celanese-Nantong Cellulose Fibers Company joint venture starts production.
  • 2000: Global Acetate Manufacturers Association founded in Brussels.
  • 2010: Sichuan Push Acetati joins cellulose acetate family.


Throughout the past century, cellulose acetate has expanded from its origins in film applications to consumer apparel, home furnishings, medical tape, industrial applications, velvets, ribbons, and more. Acetate has found itself particularly popular in the dress and suit linings segments thanks to its silky qualities and comfort (click here for more information on acetate filament) experienced by the consumer. To learn more about acetate yarn applications, click here.

Read more about the Dreyfus brothers here.


100 years of success for cellulose acetate

Starting as a lacquer for planes in World War I, Cellulose Acetate reflects a century of change. It was a part of the development of new synthetic textiles and one of the first bio-based plastics. It continues to be used for everything from high quality playing cards to adhesive tape. It also has new high-tech filter applications. Today around 90% of annual cellulose acetate production is used for cigarette filters. Overall more than 1,000 kilo tons are used for all the different applications annually.

a History. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dreyfus.org/about/history.shtml
b The birth of Celanese (1921–1950s). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.celanese.com/About-Us/History/1921-1950.aspx
c History timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.eastman.com/Company/About_Eastman/History/Pages/History_Timeline.aspx
d Corporate history (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mrc.co.jp/english/corporate/history.html