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THE STORY OF SCHWEPPES - PART 1

schport.JPG (242568 bytes)More than 200 years ago, a German-born naturalised Swiss gentleman read about the discoveries of Joseph Priestley, Lavoisier and chemists of other nations on gases and their combination with water .He concluded that the methods employed in their laboratories were too feeble in comparison to the work of nature in producing natural mineral waters. He decided to investigate the matter further and went on to become the first commercial producer of artificial mineral waters in both continental Europe and later in Great Britain. This is the story of Jacob Schweppe and the Schweppes company.

Jacob continued to improve the ideas of Priestley, Lavoisier and others and was soon manufacturing his own artificial mineral water. He was soon producing waters of good quality which were going to waste so he proposed to doctors of his adopted home town Geneva, that poor patients might have his mineral waters for free. Soon the demand for his waters grew to those who could afford to buy them and they had to press payment upon Jacob who insisted only on recovering his expenses. Jacob had finally succeeded in inventing a machine or engine that was capable of aerating water to equal or exceed the aeration of natural mineral waters.. The business became firmly established and sales grew. Jacob then made the mistake of trusting the sales of his waters to a friend. This trust was breached as the friend then approached a well -known engineer in Geneva and asked him to make an aerating machine so that he could make his own mineral waters. 

The engineer, Nicolas Paul did make the machine - a poor machine for Jacob’s friend but made a much better one for himself and quickly set himself up in business as a mineral water manufacturer and a direct competitor to Jacob. This act brought about a partnership between the two men, with Jacob deciding it would be better to join up with Nicholas Paul than suffer his rivalry and competition. A partnership was formed in 1790 between Jacob Schweppe, Nicholas Paul and Paul’s father Jacques Paul. Henry Albert Gosse joined the partnership after being introduced by Nicolas. Gosse was a pharmacist in Geneva and had himself experimented with the production of artificial waters

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Click on the thumbnail to see a BIG image of Schweppes Engine

The method or system of carbonation invented by Schweppe was given the name Geneva System or Geneva Apparatus.It consisted of a container which enclosed an agitator which generated carbon dioxide from a mixture of chalk and sulphuric acid. The gas was then passed through water into a gasometer. With the aid of a pump the gas was then conveyed into a closed wooden carbonating vessel where it was dissolved in water under pressure with the assistance of an agitator. This apparatus was the first to make practical use of a compressing pump as had been suggested by Priestley. The terms of the partnership were set out in an agreement to last nine years from July 1st 1790. It specified that the firm’s name should be ‘Schweppe, Paul and Gosse’. On 4th September a Prospectus appeared in the Journal de Geneve announcing the establishment of the partnership. Attached was a commendation from ten leading doctors stating that for the last seven or eight years Schweppe had manufactured Setlzer water and Spa water and the sales of both had exceeded the sales of natural mineral water. The prospectus showed important changes brought about by the partnership. Previously the artificial waters had been made from non-distilled water. The new firm proposed to use only distilled water and to manufacture in addition to Seltzer and Spa Water the waters of Pyrmont, Bussang, Courmayeur, Vals, Seidschutz, Balarac, Passay and other mineral waters. As well as expanding the range of waters, it was decided to expand the range of operations and a decision was taken to start a factory in London. Surprisingly enough 27 years old Nicolas Paul was not despatched to start the business and it was decided to send 50 years old Jacob Schweppe instead. In Geneva at the time was an English doctor, William Belcombe. The partners decide to involve him in setting up the London operation, in the capacity of promoting the operation, especially among fellows in the medical profession.

Jacob arrived in England on 9th January 1792 bringing a letter of recommendation from Professor Pictet of Geneva which he could present to the government, The first factory was at 141 Drury Lane and production of the waters started in early spring. At the time some mineral waters were already being sold in London by numerous apothecaries. Rudimentary mineral water machines were carted through the street for the purpose of street sales. All of these waters were inferior n terms of carbonation to those produced by Jacob but this seemed to have little effect upon on early sales. In July Jacob reported a lack of progress and success to his partners. He asked that a decisive decision be taken, either to abandon the business or agree that he should remain in London through the winter. Jacob added that if they should wish him to stay, they should urge his wife and daughter to join him in England. A reply came a month later urging Joseph to have patience and courage. Collette Schweppe his daughter traveled to London at considerable expense to join Jacob. Business continued to remain flat as the end of the year approached but he was now committed to stray until spring at least. He was astonished to receive a letter in December asking him to close down the business and return home. Various reasons were given, the lack of success in England being one. Not the least though were problems back home, for the firm’s sales were diminishing by the day. Jacob sent off an angry letter to his partners, pointing out that he would continue to stay in London until early spring at the company’s expense as previously agreed. Jacob felt that he was being abandoned by his partners and this was the beginning of the end of the partnership. The dispute rumbled on for several years with Jacob staying in London. On 20th February 1795 the partnership was formally dissolved. Under the terms of the dissolution, Jacob sacrificed the goodwill of the business he himself had created in Geneva in ten years of hard work. In return he kept the London business. His former business partners soon separated and went their own ways. Nicolas Paul left Geneva for Paris in 1799 and started a new mineral water business n 1799. In 1802 he moved to London and set up in direct competition. Before long he returned to Geneva where he died prematurely in 1806 aged forty three.

Jacob did not stay long in Drury Lane and by 1794 he had moved to 8 Kings Street, Holborn. He soon moved the factory again to 11 Margaret Street, Cavendish Square, Westminster at Michaelmas in 1795. In this street, at various addresses, he remained until he retired. In Geneva Jacob had received the fullest support from the medical profession and the leading physicians. In England, it was Dr. Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin who became their advocate. For the treatment of "Stone of the Bladder" he prescribed ;

A dram of sal soda or of salt of tartar , dissolved in a pint of water, and well saturated with carbonic acid(fixed air), by means of Dr. Nooth’s glass apparatus, and drunk every day, or twice a day, is the most efficacious internal medicine yet discovered, which can easily be taken without any general injury to the constitution. An aerated alcaline of this water is sold under the name of factitious Seltzer water, by J. Schweppe, at no.8 Kings Street, Holborn, London : which I am told is better prepared than can be easily done in the usual glass vessels, probably by employing a greater pressure in wooden ones.

Erasmus Darwin was part of a group of philosophers and inventors who met regularly. In this circle were men such a Josiah Wedgewood the great potter, James Watt, Matthew Boulton (who made Watt’s first steam engine) and Dr.. William Withering. Boulton had been a regular drinker of Schweppes waters from as early as 1794. He told Erasmus Darwin about them and in a letter dated October 1794, he gives a fascinating insight into the waters being sold and the bottles used to contain them ;

Mr. J Schweppe, preparer of mineral waters, is the person whom you have heard me speak of and who impregnates it so highly with fixable air as to exceed in appearance Champaign and all other bottled Liquors. He prepares it of three sorts. No 1 is for common drinking with your dinner. No. 2 is for Nephritick patients and No. 3 contains the most alkali and given only in more violent cases. It is contained in strong stone bottles and sold for 6s 6d per doz, including the bottles.

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Click on the thumbnail to reed the receipt which proves Schweppe was selling SODA WATER in pints by at least 1798. The BIG question is ... WHAT TYPE OF BOTTLES DID HE USE ??

The term soda water came into use in the late 1790’s, although the product had appeared for at least 30 years under different names. Soda water was named in a Schweppes advertisement of around 1798 - a first for the company. From the same 1798 advertisement comes a list of waters prepared and sold by Schweppe. These were Acidulous Soda Water in single, double and triple strengths. Acidulous Rochelle Salt Water, Seltzer, Spa nd Pyrmont Water and also Tooth Lotion of Soda. Acidulous water was recommended for complaints of the kidney or bladder, the stone, acidity, indigestion and gout. Seltzer was recommended for its pleasant taste as well as for its medicinal uses - for feverish ailments, biliousness, nervous affections and the debilitating consequencs of hard living. The Rochelle Salt Water was a purgative. The government regarded artificial mineral waters as being similar to patent medicines and imposed an excise duty of three halfpence on every bottle made. This tax was removed only in 1840.

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The recorded design of the stoneware bottle Schweppes planned to use ......

There has been a great deal of speculation about the type of bottle used by Schweppe to bottle his waters. There exists a design for a bottle to be used in the London operation, which was recorded a year before Schweppe journeyed to London . It portrays a stoneware bottle, oval in shape with two handles attached at the top. It also bears a seal showing the initials of the company - S.P.G.C for Schweppe Paul, Gosse & Co. This stoneware bottle had a flattened base so that it could stand upright. In 1798 J Schweppe & Co issued an advertisement from 75 Margaret Street ;

stoney.JPG (102119 bytes)"To keep these waters good, the bottles must be laid on their sides, in a cool place, or if convenient, it is still better to keep them covered with water."

The bottle which is illustrated with this article has yet to be discovered yet we have positive evidence from the 1790’s that Schweppe WAS using stoneware bottles of some type that were to be laid down, and that they were sold by the dozen, implying some form of crate or box. It does not take a great leap in imagination to conclude that Schweppe was using stoneware bottles of an ovate form, probably produced by  a London pottery. The discovery or indeed the existence of such bottles marked with the company name and an early address would solve this mystery for all time !

DID Jacob Schweppe actually use round based stoneware bottles without handles as in the image above ??

THE STORY OF SCHWEPPES PART 2