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Was a ‘transformation of selling’ in the US between the 1880s and 1930 exceptional? Archives of three leading British consumer goods companies reveal that a comparable transformation in selling methods was effected through the changing role for salesmen. Unlike the explanation offered for the transformation in the US, developments in Britain cannot be explained by a structural model in which the dynamics are mass production, size, corporate structure, and strategy. Consumer theory based on product characteristics and consumer behaviour provides a superior explanation. The history of marketing by the British companies also justifies a challenge to the production-driven interpretation of business development and corporate growth.