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This article traces events surrounding the sale of the British retail chemist company Boots to American interests in 1920, and the subsequent repurchase of the company by British interests in 1933. As a case study of early international retailing, it shows that individual personalities were a major factor in developments, but also that there is evidence of themes more reminiscent of recent experiences in international retailing, including issues of nationalism, transfer of ideas, culture and dependency. The overall effects of American ownership appear to have been beneficial for Boots, allowing an apparently disorganized company facing serious problems to be restructured, reorganized and professionalized, thereby providing the platform for further expansion and future prosperity.