What is this?

A very official Paris design with the city motto “Fluctuat nec mergitur” (Tossed by the waves, but not sinking) is to be found on some surprising “boxes” in a few Paris streets.

There used to be some 30 of these. Obviously there are five left. It’s not easy to guess what they are, or were. Well, the answer is - sand boxes.

Looking at the design, it seems obvious that they date from the very early 20th century. Sand was then of course used during some icy or snowy winter days, but it seems that the sand was also used to soak up horse urine and other dirt. Yes, a lot of transport was then still assured by horse carriages.

Most of the horses have disappeared from the Paris streets and for the few frosty days we normally experience in Paris, salt has replaced the sand.

We can hope that the five boxes will remain even if there is no need to put sand in them anymore. Some of them serve today actually as ventilation shafts for some underground installations. Some improved painting might be useful, especially Place de la Reine Astrid? Is there a reason to have them in different colours?


Maria Russell said...

You're right, Peter! Why have those beautiful boxes painted in different colors? Especially the ones painted black! They look like Karamanian burial urns!
Besides the ice or snow, they also must have been very useful - without forgetting the pitching in of the little sparrows - when those horses's manure were the nightmare of the city of Paris.
Just saying...

claude said...

Très intéressant ! Autant j'ai été marquée par les anciennes vespasiennes, mais alors je n'ai jamais remarqué ces sand boxes.