La Pérouse in the 16th

Wednesday, Mar 24, 2021

Rue La Pérouse, in Paris’s wealthy 16th arrondissement, was so named for the explorer in 1864. At that time Parisian street signs were made from a hard Volvic lava stone, enamelled on the surface in a process developed by the Sèvres factories, only to be replaced by the familiar modern enamelled metal plates in the late 1930s. We recently discovered a pair of the original stone street sign plaques, “Rue La Pérouse” and “16me Arrt.” (325 x 650 mm and 185 x 520 mm). They were made in Paris, possibly at the Sèvres factories, probably circa 1864, and certainly before 1938.

Parisian street signs are nowadays made of enamelled metal; these are survivors from earlier times when a very heavy volcanic stone was used. In the 18th century, Paris street names appeared on iron plaques affixed to houses placed at street corners. During the Napoleonic period, from 1812, the Comte de Chabrol, Prefect of Paris, created numerous public roads and arranged for the paving of the streets and boulevards of the capital. When he discovered that the volcanic stone from Volvic in the Auvergne that was being used for the curbs could withstand very high temperatures, and could accept a fired enamelled surface, he began to advocate its use for city street signs and in 1826 commissioned the manufactures of Sèvres to manufacture enamelled lava. In 1844 the new Paris prefect Rambuteau prescribed the use of "enamelled Volvic lava plaques where the letters stand out against a blue background"; the results were so successful that in 1860 the lava plates, despite their weight, were definitively adopted for general use.
The rue La Pérouse was named in 1864, and therefore its signs were of the Volvic lava type until 1938 when the stone plates began to be replaced by the enamelled metal plates familiar today.
Our friend Bernard Clavreuil kindly helped us with information summarised here.