By the KING’S Royal Letters Patent,



DAILY confirmed, by Experience, not only
to be a sure DISSOLVENT for the


but a most powerful, safe, and efficacious Medicine in the Spasmodic and Windy Cholic, Pains in the Breast, Hypochondriac Disease, and all Kinds of Flatulences, Diarræa, or Looseness; Cardialgia, or Heart-burn; Acid Eructations, or sour Belchings; Strangury, or when the Water is made by little and little; Gripes, Fevers, and Convulsions in young Children, and all those Uneasinesses which they are subject to from Acidities, the well-known
Cause of most of their Disorders.
By Vertue of the King’s Royal Letters Patent, I appoint Mess. William and Cluer Dicey and Comp at Dr. Bateman’s Warehouse, in Bow-Church-Yard, London, my only Venders of the LIQUID SHELL,
to whom all Persons are desired to apply for the same.
………………………………………………………………W. BAKER.
Sold also (Retale only) at my House in Helmet-Court, near Katherine-Street in the Strand, at 1s. 6d. the Vial; sealed, as in the Margin, with Baron SCHWANBERG’s Coat of Arms; over it there are these words; BY THE KING’S PATENT; and under-neath, in a Scroll, LIQUID SHELL; where, and at Dr. Bateman’s Warehouse aforesaid, may be had, SCHWANBERG’s UNIVERSAL POWDER, for the speedy curing Acute and Inflammatory Fevers, &c, Price 2s. the Parcel.

***The great Demand for this DISSOLVENT since the Publication of the Patent, has obliged the Proprietor to enlarge the Apparatus in his Elaboratory, by which Means he prepares it in greater Quantities than he could heretofore; and being willing that every afflicted Person may be benefited thereby, the Vials now contain above double the Quantity at the same Price.

Source: The Whitehall Evening Post, or, London Intelligencer, 19 December 1749


More common than today because of poorer nutrition and untreated urinary tract infections, bladder stones could be a nightmare for the sufferer. When they were causing pain and stoppage of the urine, something had to be done – but faced with the prospect of an agonising operation, patients can hardly be blamed for trying out dissolvent medicines like this one.

William, Baron Schwanberg, according to his epitaph in a 1755 collection compiled by W Toldervy, was a nobleman of Mecklenberg in Germany, born c.1686. The epitaph presents him in glowing terms, but then it’s an epitaph, so I suppose it would:

No man had more honour, honesty,
Or integrity ;
And his Humanity and Benevolence
Gain’d him the Love and Esteem,
As his Learning excited the
Admiration of the World!
But a too arduous application
In studying the Sciences
Shortened his Valuable Life.

He invented not only the Liquid Shell but also a Fever Powder and a cure for scurvy called the Aurum Horizontale Pill. The Fever Powder is of particular interest because Schwanberg had some dealings with a certain Robert James.

Schwanberg died in 1744, and a few years later James was granted a patent for his own Fever Powders, which went on to become one of the most successful patent medicines of all time. James managed to keep the composition of his powders secret, by ambiguously wording the patent specification, but to Schwanberg’s administrator Walter Baker, the case was clear – James had stolen the recipe. A cartoon of the time shows James pickpocketing the Powders from their proprietor, and preparing to stab him in the back, but although Baker petitioned the King to revoke the patent, he was unsuccessful.

The Medical Highwayman
Detail from 'A Reply for the present to the Unknown Author of Villany Detected' (1754), reproduced in England under the House of Hanover by Thomas Wright (1848)

The Liquid Shell

In 1747, an anonymous correspondent to the Gentleman’s Magazine sent in an account of his analysis of the Liquid Shell, an excerpt of which is as follows:

Having, therefore, procured some of the Liquid Shell, which is a clear transparent liquor, put into it a human stone formed in the urinary passages, upon which a very white sediment precipitated ; and there was the like white sediment when a few drops of spirit of hartshorn were dripped into some of the same liquor ; which fully proves that it was in both cases the lime of burnt shell, and not the parts of the dissolved stone, as is pretended; for there was no stone put in with the spirit of hartshorn. Besides, this precipitated matter is much too white to be any part of dissolved stones.

The correspondent went on to suggest that the white sediment in patients’ urine after taking the medicine was not the stone breaking apart, but also the residue of lime.

The correspondent was later identified in the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1764 as eminent scientist Dr Stephen Hales (D.D. rather than M.D.). Hales has another role in the history of bladder stone remedies – he was on a government committee that investigated, and ultimately approved of, Joanna Stephens’ famous treatment. This preparation netted its maker £5000 from the government, who could not find a cheaper way of persuading her to reveal the recipe. The secret ingredients turned out to be soap, eggshells, snails, and several herbs.


For anyone interested, I’ve put a transcript of a description of cutting for the stone on a separate page. Not suitable for squeamish persons, especially men.


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