The numbering of the houses in Cologne in 1794

On the 3rd of October 1794, in view the French troops standing just outside of Cologne, the council approved of the plan of the guard-committee (“ehe noch der Plan die ganze Einrichtung der Sicherheits-Wacht geendigt werden könnte, […]“) that all houses in the city were to be numbered without exception and that, depending on the location,  appropriate lighting was to be put up. It was given order to install the lighting immediately, while the numbering was left to fate.
Source: HAStK, Bestand 10 (Ratsprotokolle) Nr. 241 Bl. 216v.

On the 6th of October 1794, French troops occupy the city. On the 7th of October, the council decided that every local government official has to hand in an inventory of all citizens and non-citizens in his area within 48 hours and, furthermore, the guard-committee is given authority to number the houses accordingly and accomplish the mission (“[…] der Numerirungs-Punkt deren Häußer zur löblichen Wachts-Kommission verwiesen wird, die also mit der Durchführung beauftragt wird“).
Source: HAStK, Bestand 10 (Ratsprotokolle) Nr. 241 Bl. 225v.

On the 20th of October 1794, senator Gottfried von Gall notes in his diary that the numeration and the written documentation of the houses which started eight days ago is continued: “es wurden alle Hauser numerirt und litterirt, mit diesem bereits 8täg angefangener Arbeit continuirt.”
Source: HAStK, Bestand 7030 (Chron. u. Darst.) Nr. 175, Bl. 71v.

The printer Heinrich Josef Metternich (a member of the council) applies for the permission to publish an address-calendar, which should, amongst other things, include the house numbers, which had been put up in the meantime, and he seeks allowance to collect all relevant details. He emphasises: “daß durch die von Euer Gnaden veranstaltete Polizey-Einrichtung … nunmehro alle Häußer hießiger Satdt nach Ordnung der Colonelschafften mit Nummeren bemerkt sind.“
Source: HAStK, Bestand 350 (Franz. Verw..) Nr. 306, Blatt 3-6

In the second address-book of Cologne of 1797, the widow of Wilhelm von Lemmen seel. was still listed as the tenant of the house in the Glockengasse which had been given the number 4711.
Source: RWWA Abt.33, 2. Adreßbuch: Gemeinnütziger…Adresse-Kalender der Stadt Köllen, Köln 1797, S. 103

Wilhelm Mülhens is listed as the tenant of the house no sooner than in the 3rd edition of the address-book of Cologne; ‘in the speculation business’ is given as his occupation; he is not yet listed under the manufacturers of Eau de Cologne in the branch directory.
Source: RWWA Abt.33, 3. Adreßbuch: Verzeichnis der Stadt-Kölnischen Einwohner, Köln 1797, S. 179

In 1811, the continuos numeration is changed into the system of numbering streets separately in the way it is done today.

In the preface to the 1813 French edition of the address-book, the editor Thiriart claims that there had not been any house numeration before the arrival of the French in the city (inconnu á Cologne avant l´arrivée des armées françaises au bord du Rhin) and that the order for the numbering of the houses had been given in 1795. That is were the legends begin.
Source: RWWA Abt.33, Itinéraire de Cologne, 1813, S. 12

The picture of the 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. The scenic version of it spread widely in the 1965s and the 1960s.
Source: RWWA Abt.33, 160 Jahre N° 4711 1752-1952, Köln 1952, o. S.

Sources: Historisches Archiv der Stadt Köln (HAStK), Stiftung Rheinisch-Westfälisches Wirtschaftsarchiv (RWWA), Cologne