Neonatology on the Web

Le Tour d’Abandon (The Desertion Tower)

Le Tour d’Abandon (The Desertion Tower)

“Le Tour d’abandon” (the desertion tower) came into use in several cities at the beginning of the 19th century. It was installed in the wall of institutions such as l’Hôpital des Enfans-Trouvés (Paris’s hospital for foundling infants) and worked rather like a revolving door. Parents could leave their offspring anonymously without any risk. The parents opened the front door of the tower, which was on the outer wall of the building, and placed the baby inside a compartment that was on a turntable. The nuns could then rotate the turntable and remove the newborn from the tower within the building without seeing the parents.

Use of the Tour d’abandon was sanctioned by an imperial decree in 1811 and they seem to have been used from about 1810 to 1860. In modern times, the practice has been revived to some extent by “safe harbor” drop points for unwanted babies (see Wikipedia link below for Baby Hatch).

Sometimes the child would be abandoned with some form of identification or memento so that, perhaps, the parents could reclaim him/her at a later date. The picture below shows examples of “signes d’identité” that were left with infants by the parents.

The artifacts shown here are located at the Musée de l’Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris, located at 47, quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris, France. Well worth a visit, the next time you are in Paris.

For more information, see Baby Hatch or Tour d’abandon (Wikipedia).