Life in Paris & France,  Police,  Practical Info

History of Lost and Found-Objets Trouvés in France

Photo from Paris Objets Trouvés page-history-historique

The Lost and Found department of the Paris police department is one of the oldest in the world, over two hundred years old.

The history of Paris’ objets trouvés in French is no longer available on the Préfecture de police’s recorded already in 1367. Charles, Duc of Normandy, decreed that hotels and auberges were to take care of lost property until the owner returned to claimed it. During the Middle Ages and under the Ancient Regime (1500s to end of 1700s – after Renaissance to French Revolution), lost items were announced publicly for three Sundays in a row. If no one claimed the item(s) they became the property of the King or the “Lord High Justice”. Beginning in 1695 these announcements took place at the church doors. If a lost object was found in the post-office, in a coach or public transportation, it became royal property after two years.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, fewer things were lost because there was no mass production. What you wore and what you owned was less numerous and people were less likely to lose things. With mass production, people bought more, and they lost things more often.

From 1804, the Chief of Police instructed all local police stations to bring all found objects to a main police station. This office seems to have remained little known to the general public. By 1850, about 10,000 items were being turned in annually. The objects, gloves, clothes, baskets and books were turned in rather faithfully. Neighbors were very observant of each other. Paris was still marked by a rural culture and any new possession may have been considered stolen if one was of moderate means.

Claims for lost items were infrequent. The employees were very suspicious of claimants and owners doubted that their article would be turned in. The claimant was required to file an extremely detailed description of the object in an office that was usually tiny, filthy and impractical to reach.

The Magistrate, Louis Lépin, decided in 1893 to centralize the lost and found service that would collect all articles and redistribute all of the unclaimed articles.  This first office was located on rue du Harlay et jouxte le Palais de Justice.

The lost and found office at 36, rue des Morillons in Paris’ fifteenth arrondissement opened in 1939. They perfected the organization and manner of receiving and returning articles, specifically the nature of the object, how long to hold it and claiming requirements.

Sacks of objects arrive at rue des Morillons that must be inventoried and archived while waiting to be claimed. The bureau receives over 140,000 objects a year. The bureau would rather find the owners than hold on to the stuff. They are trying more than ever with modern communication to reconnect owners with their property.

Préfecture de police
Direction des transports et de la protection du public
Sous direction des déplacements et de l’espace public
Service des objets trouvés
36, rue des Morillons
75732 Paris Cedex 15

Tramway : T3 (stop: Georges Brassens)
Métro : line 12 (station Convention)
Bus : lines 62, 89 et 95
Hours: Monday to Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Handy chart to show the best times to visit Objets Trouvés (best: green, average: orange, terrible: red).