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4711 is a traditional German Eau de Cologne by Mäurer & Wirtz. Because it has been produced in Cologne since at least 1799, it is allowed to use the geographical indication Original Eau de Cologne. Today the brand has been expanded to various other perfumes and products besides the original Echt Kölnisch Wasser, which still uses the same formula as more than 200 years ago.

The 4711-flagship store in the Cologne Glockengasse is a popular tourist attraction.


An original 4711 bottle from 1885
File:Eau de Cologne 1280470.JPG
todays flacon: the so-called "Molanus bottle"

In the early 18th century, the Italian expatriate, Johann Maria Farina (1685–1766), created a new fragrance and named it Eau de Cologne ("water from Cologne") after his new residence, Cologne. Over the course of the century, the fragrance became increasingly popular.

Later according to a legend, on 8 October 1792 a Carthusian monk made the merchant Wilhelm Mülhens (1762-1841) a wedding gift: the secret recipe of a so-called "aqua mirabilis", a "miracle water" for internal and external use. Mülhens then founded a small factory at Cologne's "Glockengasse" and established the first "Eau de Cologne" as a remedy.

Peter Joseph Mülhens and his son Wilhelm Mülhens had been in a dispute over the use of the name "Farina" from 1800 to 1881. The Farina family accused Mülhens of using the name without authorization. The firm "Johann Maria Farina gegenüber dem Jülichs-Platz" feared confusion between the products because they also produced perfumes. In 1832 Wilhelm Mülhens lost the dispute, whereupon he employed another Mr. Farina from Mortara in order to continue using the name.

The company name was Eau de Cologne & Parfümerie Fabrik Glockengasse No. 4711 gegenüber der Pferdepost von Ferd. Mülhens in Köln am Rhein until 1990, when it was renamed Mülhens GmbH & Co. KG.

In 1994, the Mülhens family company was bought by Wella AG, Darmstadt, Germany. Since 1997, Wella has operated its cosmetic activities under the name Cosmopolitan Cosmetics GmbH, although the name Mülhens GmbH & Co. KG was still in use. In 2003, Wella AG was taken over by the American competitor Procter & Gamble.

In the summer of 2006, Procter & Gamble announced its intention of selling the "local" 4711 brand, along with three other former Mühlens brands, in an effort to focus its portfolio on "global" brands. Several interested parties competed over a period of several months until it was announced in December 2006 that the brand rights had been sold to the perfume company Mäurer & Wirtz in Aachen, a subsidiary of the Dalli Group.

House number 4711

File:4711-Stammhaus Glockengasse-2712.jpg
Glockengasse 4 in Cologne, the headquarter of 4711
Third address book of Cologne, 1797, page 179

On 3 October 3 1794, in view of the French troops standing just outside of Cologne, the city council approved a plan proposed by the guard-committee to number all houses in the city without exception and to install what would be considered appropriate lighting for each location. Orders were given to install the lighting immediately, while the numbering was left to fate.

On 6 October 1794, French troops occupied the city. On 7 October 1794, the city council decided that every local government official had to hand in an inventory of all citizens and non-citizens in his district within 48 hours. Furthermore, the guard-committee received authorization to number the houses as previously agreed.

On 20 October 1794, Senator Gottfried von Gall noted in his diary that the numbering and the written documentation of the houses which started eight days earlier was being continued.

The printer Heinrich Josef Metternich (a council member) applied for permission to publish an address calendar. This calendar was supposed to include, amongst other things, the house numbers which had recently been assigned. He also sought permission to collect all the relevant details.

In the second address book of Cologne (1797), the widow of Wilhelm von Lemmen seel. was still listed as the tenant of the Klöckergasse house, which had been given the number 4711.

Wilhelm Mülhens was listed as the tenant of the house no sooner than in the third edition of the address book of Cologne; his occupation was listed as "in Speculationsgeschäften" (which translates to speculator). He is not yet listed under the manufacturers of Eau de Cologne in the mercantile directory.

In 1811, the continuous house numbering was changed to a system of numbering streets separately, as is common today.

In the preface to the 1813 French edition of the address book, the publisher Thiriart claimed that there had not been any house numbering before the arrival of the French in the city ("inconnu à Cologne avant l´arrivée des armées françaises au bord du Rhin") and that the order to number the houses had been given in 1795.

In 1854 Peter Joseph Mülhens moved from Glockengasse 12 into a newly constructed commercial building with a neo-gothic facade at Glockengasse 26-28. Glockengasse 12, which had been assigned the number 4711 in 1794, remained vacant for a period of time and was torn down after it was sold.

The depiction of a French military officer painting the house number 4711 on the facade of the house in the Glockengasse while sitting on his horse is a product of advertising. A piece of tapestry, a gobelin which had been ordered and made in the 1920s, served as a model. A scenic version spread widely in the 1950s and the 1960s.

Popular references

  • The number 4711 is sometimes used by software engineers where an indeterminate, but specific, number is needed.<ref>

"Business entities like account 4711, customer Jones, account 007, customer Smith are located on the banking company server." Software Architectures: Advances and Applications.
The point of the crash usually looks something like this "function+0x4711". MirOS Manual: crash(8).
Also have a look at articles on Metasyntactic variable and Placeholder name. </ref>

  • In Finland the telephone number (09) 4711 is a direct line to the Poison Information Centre, that answers questions concerning the prevention and treatment of acute poisonings every day around the clock.
  • In Yevgeny Zamyatin's novel We, the name S-4711 is a reference to the Eau de Cologne.
  • In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 4711 is tattooed on Frank's upper thigh.
  • Electronic musician Vladimir Ussachevsky composed a work called Improvisation on 4711 (1958).
  • The German Navy during World War II issued vast amounts of 4711 perfume to the submariners of the U-Boat fleet. As there were limited facilities and few opportunities for bathing, the scent was to be used in an attempt to improve the odour aboard the vessel. Crew members typically didn't use much of it and would take home bottles as presents for mothers, wives, or girlfriends.
  • "4711 Kommando" was a slang term used in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp to refer to a latrine work detail
  • Are You Being Served? - In Series 8, Episode 5 [Heir Apparent], Mr Humphries (playing the cross-dressing role of his mother) picks up a handkerchief allegedly belonging to her son (i.e., himself). She (he) sniffs it and says "So that's what happened to my 4711!". In Series 9, Episode 1 [The Sweet Smell of Success], Mr. Humphries answers the phone in menswear, identifying himself as 'Assistant 4711'.
  • Holly Golightly sprinkles her neck with this cologne in the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's.
  • According to President John F. Kennedy's teen mistress Mimi Alford in her memoir Once Upon a Secret, this was the President's cologne of choice.
  • In the card game Contract Bridge a 7-4-1-1 hand shape is known as a "Swan", the 7 being the long neck, the 4 the round body, and the 1-1 the feet.
  • According to Who biographer Richard Barnes, Pete Townshend used to "snort" 4711 between songs at the band's gigs.
  • In Thomas Pynchon's novel Bleeding Edge, characters theorize about Hitler using 4711 cologne.

External links

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  • Stiftung Rheinisch-Westfälisches Wirtschaftsarchiv (RWWA), Cologne: Genuine files 1803 u. Mülhens letters May 9, 1802 / June 22, 1819 / June 27, 1819 / October 31, 1824 / January 20, 1826 / February 3, 1826 / January 11, 1827
  • Abt.33, Stiftung Rheinisch-Westfälisches Wirtschaftsarchiv (RWWA), Cologne. [1]
  • Ulrich S. Soénius: Mülhens, Fabrikanten von Kölnisch Wasser. Familienartikel mit Einzelbiographien Wilhelm, Peter Joseph, Ferdinand und Peter Paul Mülhens. In: Neue Deutsche Biographie, Bd. 18, Berlin 1997, S. 299-303.