A classical nonlinear thermodynamic theory of elastic shells is derived by specializing the three-dimensional equations of motion and the second law of thermodynamics to a very general, shell-like body. No assumptions are made on how unknowns vary through the thickness. Extensional and bending strains are derived from the equations of motion via the principle of virtual power. The Coleman-Noll procedure plus the second law applied to an assumed form of the first law leads to constitutive relations plus reduced forms of the first and second laws. To avoid potential ill conditioning, a Legendre-Fenchel transformation is used to define a mixed-energy density, the logical place to impose the constitutive Kirchhoff hypothesis, if desired, because such an energy density rests, ultimately, on experiments. The Ladevèze-Pécastaings treatment of three-dimensional edge effects to obtain accurate two-dimensional solutions is discussed.