More High Street shopping history

Boots the chemist

In the late 1960s I needed a Saturday job and managed to get one at WH Smith.

I also applied to Boots the Chemists, another High Street stalwart. Although I knew that Boots had originated as a family firm based in Nottingham I was unaware of the details.

John Boot was born in 1815 and worked as an agricultural labourer. However, ill health forced him to seek alternative employment and he started to sell herbal remedies concocted by his mother. In 1849 he opened a herbalist shop and taught himself about pharmacy.

John Boot and his wife had two children but unfortunately John died in 1860 when his son Jesse was only ten years old. However, Jesse was able to help his mother with the shop and made it his mission to bring cheaper medicines to the mass of the population. The business expanded and in 1909 Jesse Boot was knighted becoming Baron Trent of Nottingham. He sold the company in 1920 to American investors and re-located to Jersey where he died in 1931.

Boots continued to grow and expand into the manufacture of pharmaceuticals. There’s more info on the company website .

In my search for a Saturday job I also applied to Marks and Spencer. To no avail: I don’t think they offered Saturday jobs.

Marks & Spencer was formed in 1884 when Michael Marks, a Polish refugee opened a market stall in Leeds with the slogan ‘don’t ask the price, it’s a penny’.

Marks went into a partnership with Tom Spencer, a bookeeper by trade, and they opened several more market stalls in the north before launching their first shop in 1904.

M&S have a fantastic website devoted to the history of the company which includes an extensive on-line collection of photographs. Really worth looking at when you have a few minutes to spare.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

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