Viscose was created by French scientist and industrialist Hilaire de Chardonnet (1838-1924), inventor of the first artificial textile fiber, artificial silk) in Échirolles in 1891, then the process for manufacturing viscose was patented by three British scientists, Charles Frederick Cross, Edward John Bevan and Clayton Beadle, in 1902.
Further development led to viscose being spun into thread for embroidery and trimmings. Eventually, after Samuel Courtauld & Co. had taken over in 1904, Viscose manufacture became big business. By the twenties and thirties it had almost completely replaced the traditional cotton and wool for women's stockings and underwear. Similar changes occurred in the US and in Europe, too. Viscose was also being used for linings and furnishing fabrics; providing the staple for towels and table-cloths and was being made into high tenacity yarn for tires. Yet other uses included the manufacture of sponges and absorbent cloths.
Making viscose film had been tried by Cross in the 1890s but it was in Switzerland and France that major successes were achieved. By 1913 C.T.A. established La Cellophane SA. Ten years later DuPont Cellophane Co. was set up in the USA and in 1935 British Cellophane Ltd was established in Bridgwater, Somerset.
Viscose is a soft material, used in mostly tops, coats and jackets.
Viscose is currently becoming less common because of the polluting effects of carbon disulfide and other by-products of the process, forcing the Bridgwater factory to close in 2005.