The first hand pumps were introduced into France from Holland from 1715 onwards. The City of Rouen imported its first pump in 1719, but the imperfections and weaknesses of these early machines limited their efficiency.
The Rouen authorities had been criticised for decades by members of the Parliament of Normandy for their inaction with regard to the fire problem. They therefore grasped this opportunity to recover prestige, and in 1720 the City aldermen decided to have a pump made by local craftsmen.
The council deliberated as follows:
"On the construction of a pump to extinguish the fires that might occur, the City’s pump having been usefully used in recent fires and proved very helpful, it is appropriate to make a second, may a company come forward, claiming to have a secret which it does not want to disclose, to produce the aforementioned pump, which it proposes to make, requesting no payment before it is made and we have seen its effect..."
The political stakes were sufficiently important for the aldermen to insist not only on the invention of a new mechanism to make the pump efficient (a secret which it does not want to disclose), but also that payment for the pump should only be made in view of the result (requesting no payment before it is made and we have seen its effect).