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  • Writer's pictureE.F. Vidocq

E.F. Vidocq Opens Inquiry Office

The year is 1833, things are not going so well in France with the Monarchy increasingly restrictive and abusive policies. Vidocq has left his position with the Sûreté he once ran as the Chief. Likely, with disdain that was apparent from his second tenure with the Paris Police force, Eugène François Vidocq brewed a plan that set in motion a complete industry still flourishing today. brochure showing Eugene Francois Vidocq opening first detective agency
E.F. Vidocq Opens the First Detective Agency 1833

Eugéne-François Vidocq Starts the Inquiry Office

Vidocq saw an opportunity to weave himself into the fabric of commerce. Vidocq said “Cette époque est l’âge d’or des industriels” (‘This era is the golden age of industry’) and he had ideas on how he could protect merchants, bankers and shopkeepers from indubious criminals.

From his home office at Rue Cloche - Perche in Paris, E.F. Vidocq the ex-chef de la Surêté opened the first private investigation and detective agency called Bureau des Renseignemen (Inquiry Office). He further signified that his goal was to protect commerce when he named his business by using the words "dans l’intérêt du Commerce" (in the interest of commerce). His goal was to provide investigation services to business and industry, of which the likes had never seen before.

What Does The Private Detective Brochure Say?

Regarded as the first bit of advertising a private detective has ever done, this brochure is broken into 3 different parts. Let's have a look at what they say:

Prospectus (top of the paper)

Prospectus is a word still used in English today. The dictionary describes Prospectus as "a brochure or other document describing the major features, attractions, or services of a place, institution, or business to prospective patrons, clients, owners, or members".

Vidocq made a flyer, leaflet or brochure to announce his position as an agent for commerce.

Why Is the Mention of Paper Included? (second section)

It is not known to this writer why the next paragraph is included. It mentions paper. Prior to this circular Vidocq did run a paper company, and he patented a anti-counterfeiting paper. It lasted all but a year or so before he went into bankruptcy. It is purely speculative, but based on all the known facts, he was perhaps showing his potential value to the commercial industry he was marketing his leaflet to.

"Patent for the invention and improvement of safety paper on which it is impossible to make the slightest attempt at falsification or alteration whatsoever".

It is likely that his security paper came from his prior short stint as a paper manufacturer and he was showing potential clients that he could assist them in this regard due to the massive amounts of fraud, forgery and swindling that merchants were facing.

E.F. Vidocq Bureau des Renseignemens (third section)

Here we see Vidocq introducing the name of his agency. "E.F. Vidocq Inquiry Office". He goes on to say "dans l’intérêt du Commerce" (in the interest of commerce).

We can also see the word "Bréveté" next to E.F. Vidocq. This means "patented". What we would say today "Trademarked". E.F. Vidocq appears to have trademarked his name, although it could be a patent for the paper.

Vidocq is naming his company E.F. Vidocq Inquiry Bureau in the Interest of Commerce. Bureau des Renseignemens was most often used meaning inquiry bureau, and in some translations Information Office. Bureau is used in English and is widely known to mean it's literal translation from French to English as "office".

Vidocq's Address is also presented on the flyer as Rue Cloche - Parche, No. 12, Paris. Later, Vidocq moved to Galerie Vivienne, No. 13, Paris.

The Ad Copy (fourth section)

Contained in the ad copy is Vidocq's sales pitch. In part it reads:


"C’est une nécessité vivement et depuis long-temps sentie par le Commerce, que celle d’un établissement special ayant pour objet de lui procurer des renseignemens sur les prétendus Négocians, c’est à dire les escrocs qui, à l’aide des qualifications de Banquiers, Négocians et Commissionnaires, usurpent la confiance publique et font journellement des dupes parmi les véritables commerçans".

English Translation:

"Commerce has long and strongly felt the necessity for a special establishment whose objective would be the procurement of information on false Merchants, that is to say swindlers who, helped by the experience of Bankers, Merchants and Commissioners, play on public confidence and daily make dupes of true commercial agents".

E.F. Vidocq continues by sharing with those that would read this flyer that the fraud and misconduct is costing a lot of money, which he quantifies.

Vidocq tells us that economists of his time “false Merchants” cost true Commerce by the day (50,000 ff), month (1,500,000 ff) and year (18,000,000 ff), then stating that even these elevated sums are most likely an underestimation, the real business loss coming somewhere between 36 and 40 million francs annually.

The full transcript:

"Commerce has long and strongly felt the necessity for a special establishment whose objective would be the procurement of information on false Merchants, that is to say swindlers who, helped by the experience of Bankers, Merchants and Commissioners, play on public confidence and daily make dupes of true commercial agents

The writers who have devoted themselves especially to statistical research in such matters raise the number of industrialists of this kind to 20,000. I am willing to admit that there is some exaggeration in this calculation; but I affirm that the most moderate estimate cannot go below five thousand. Let us take this data as a basis.

If the five thousand individuals absorb in commerce an average sum of to fr a day, that is to tax the expense of these gentlemen, who usually lead a merry life, and usually inclined to the most expensive passions.

Their common expense will therefore amount: per day to 50 thousand francs, per month 1 million 500 thousand francs, per year 18 million.

But it must be observed that in order to obtain these 18 million francs, these industrialists swindle from trade a sum at least double, often triple, because they buy dearly, resell at a low price, pay considerable commissions to the go-betweens in their dirty business."

E.F. Vidocq an Intelligent Man

Although Vidocq led a troubled life for his first 35 years, it appears he was in-tune with the oppression of the Monarchy and the troubles that plagued businesses of the time.

Vidocq had a plan to aid commercial interests identify fraud and improve the economy. He understood many more aspects of society than one might think, and from all accounts it appears he was an educated and intelligent person who understood a wide variety of matters.

Eugène François Vidocq and E.F. VIDOCQ™ are our trademark.

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