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In the early 18th century, Johann Maria Farina (1685–1766), an Italian living in Cologne Germany, created a fragrance. He named it Eau de Cologne ("water from Cologne") after the city that he had adopted as his home. Over the next century, the fragrance became increasingly popular.

According to legend, the recipe for the cologne became the property of Wilhelm Mülhens (1762-1841).and his descendants. The Mulhens founded a small factory at Cologne's "Glockengasse" and began to produce "Eau de Cologne" 4711 named after the street number of the factory.

However, the Farina family,  descendants of the original creator who had continued the tradition of perfumers, disputed the ownership of the cologne. To counteract this claim the Mulhens employed a person who happened to have the name Farina as a way of keeping the recipe in their hands legally.

The company name was Eau de Cologne & Parfümerie Fabrik Glockengasse No. 4711 gegenüber der Pferdepost von Ferd. Mülhens in Köln am Rhein until 1990 when it was renamed Mülhens GmbH & Co. KG.

In 1994, the Mülhens family company was bought by Wella AG.  In 2003, Wella AG was taken over by the American competitor Procter & Gamble.

In summer 2006, Procter & Gamble sold 4711 to the perfume company Maurer & Wirtz, a subsidiary of the Dalli Group.