This is not child’s play…or is it?

The world of typewriters includes sturdy and heavy office machines and sleek, lightweight portables. But not all typewriters are made equal.

The idea for the typewriter dates to the early 1700s, when Englishman Henry Mill filed a patent for “an artificial machine or method for the impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively one after another.” The first mechanical typewriter was built in Italy in the early 1800s by Pellegrino Turri for the Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano, who was blind. While no one has seen Turri’s machine, there are copies of the Countess’s letters.  Commercial production began in the late 1800s only with the “writing ball” of Danish pastor Rasmus Malling-Hansen (1870) followed by the Sholes & Glidden Type Writer which hit the American market in 1874. The patent was sold for $12,000 to Densmore and Yost, who made an agreement with E. Remington and Sons (then famous as a manufacturer of sewing machines), to commercialize what was known as the Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer. Remington started production of their first typewriter on March 1, 1873 in Ilion, New York. The Type-Writer introduced the QWERTY, designed by Sholes, and the success of the follow-up Remington No. 2 of 1878 – the first typewriter to include both upper and lower case letters via a shift key.

The Remington, like the one pictured below from the 1920s, came to dominate the early typewriter market but at a price–the machines cost around $100 each in the early 1900s.

1920s Remington Portable

The Remington Portable was a costly but sturdy and lightweight machine that made writing faster and easier than writing by hand.

Enter the Simplex

The Simplex Typewriter was not created as a toy but as an affordable, simpler alternative to the much more complicated QWERTY typewriter. The first Simplex debuted in the early 1890s and cost $2.50, a fraction of the cost of a QWERTY typewriter.

The Simplex Typewriter isn't a toy. As its name suggests, it is a simple, affordable typewriter.

The Simplex Typewriter isn’t a toy. As its name suggests, it is a simple, affordable typewriter.

This was made in New York by the Simplex Typewriter Company and many models of Simplex manufactured through the late 1800s and into the 1900s including one with a decorative keyboard. However, all work approximately the same way–much like Dymo Label Maker. They are slow but do a fair job of typing.

The Simplex wasn’t intended as a child’s toy but early advertising often suggested it as a gift for children as well as emphasizing its affordability (like the ad below).

Simplex Typewriter Ad

The Simplex came in many models debuting in 1892 and lasting more than half a century into the 1940s. Check out the history of this amazing machine at ozTypewriter website. The toy version of the typewriter, like many other technologies (think cell phone–how long did it take for a toy cell phone to appear on the market after the adult version hit the market), grew up alongside its more expensive and adult counterpart. The first toy typewriters date to the late 1800s or early 1900s, depending on the definition you use (for example, counting the Simplex as a toy). Some of the early “toys” like the Lord Baltimore and the Eureka were pretty serious looking little machines like the Simplex, but as the 20th Century grew into adolescents and worked its way into adulthood and through the Great Depression, the toy typewriter came of age.

Key among them (couldn’t help but slip that in) were machines made by Berwin, Mettoy, Unique Portable, Mettype and Dial-Marx of Louis Marx toys fame. The interesting thing is that most of these were designed by one individual Samuel Irving Berger (1889 to 1970) of Newark, New Jersey, which is why so many competing designs look so similar.

The toy typewriter remains a hit today. Along the way other toys that celebrate the technologies of writer also made their debut like the Cub Printing Press Superior Marking Equipment Company (SMECO) of Chicago, Illinois (pictured below). Many of these became popular after World War II but have a following today–just check out your local toy store or online seller of toys.

While typewriters and printing machines may have a lasting audience, we love the vintage models like the Simplex, Berwin, Marx and SMECO. If you share our passion for all things print, text and type, check out our Vintage Types Shop in ETSY.

More about the history of typewriters

If you want to know more about the history of typewriters and the Simplex we suggest two websites that offer a wealth of information:

  • The Classic Typewriter Page is hosted by Richard Polt of Xavier University and is among the best sites for information about the history of typewriters. There are many photographs and links to resources like where to buy ribbons and get the repaired.
  • The ozTypewriter website is hosted by Richard Messenger at the Australian Typewriter Museum in Canberra, Australia. It is also a terrific resource about vintage typewriters and typing machines. There is a page about the Simplex that includes photos and more information.
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Happy Valentines Day, Z.H.!

Note: This blog post is speculative, so read with that in mind. In it I try to connect some vintage Valentines Day cards we recently purchased with the name of the recipient. We don’t know if we connected those dots accurately but read on and come to your own conclusions. 

Happy Valentines from the kids in the class

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We were in an antique mall this week and came across some vintage Valentines Day cards and bought five of them. They are beauties–in good condition for their age and with great images that speak to Valentines Days past. As I was photographing these and posting them in our Vintage Types shop in Etsy, I noticed that they were all addressed to one person, Z. H. Castleberry (with some youthful variations on the spelling). That’s not amazing since we bought them from one dealer–we assume they were part of a set of old cards–but it got us thinking about Z. H. First, let me share the hand-written notes on the cards:

  • To Z. H. Castleberry from Jae Harold Henson
  • To Z. H. from Bert Jr. Smith
  • To Z. H. Casibury from Lewis Jack Bundram
  • To Z. H. from Benito June Lucas
  • To Z. H. Castleberry from T. J. Upton

The notes are innocuous enough. They suggest the kind of note kids write when the teacher tells them that if they give out Valentines cards they have to give one to each member of the class. The misspellings, which add to the charm, suggest that these were written by young children–perhaps when Z. H. was in the first, second or third grade. Some of the handwriting looks more advanced so perhaps some parents or the teacher stepped in to help.

It’s also interesting when a young child goes by his or her initials, rather than name or a nickname. And there aren’t too many names that begin with the letter Z. That got us both digging around on the Internet (that most dangerous but useful of research tools) and we found ONE Z. H. Castleberry.

A bit of genealogy…maybe

The Z. H. Castleberry we found was born in Terry County, Texas in 1924. Do the math and if Z. H. was 8 to 10 years old it would be the early 1930s, in the depths of the Depression. Terry County is in the lower left side of the Texas Panhandle. Wikipedia says it was named for a Confederate Army officer and is one of 46 dry counties in Texas (how’s that for trivia).

The 1940 Census says that Z. H. Castleberry, who was about 15, was living in Gaines, Texas–just a Texas “stones throw” from Terry County (head South one county)–so he didn’t go far. It also says he had a 7th grade education (“elementary”). His father is listed as W. H. Castleberry, a truck driver by occupation. There is another entry below W. H. for his wife and the name is Carl.

1940 Census

A bit more research led us to Z. H.’s enlistment into the Army at the height of World War II. He enlisted at Lubbock on April 20, 1943. The enlistment record suggests that Z. H. went further in school and had three years of high school. We get a few more facts about his physical features. He was White, single without dependents, and weighed 101 pounds. His height is listed as 88 inches–if so, he was over 7 feet tall which doesn’t seem likely so is likely a mistake on the record. At a guess, I’d think it should read 66 or 68 inches which would put him at 5 feet 6 or 8 inches which fits with the weight. His civil occupation was listed as, “Semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers, bus, taxi, truck, and tractor” so perhaps he was working with his father.

There is another entry that suggests that our popular classmate died in February, 2012 at the age of 87. A good long life! There’s more information to be found but some of this goes beyond reasonable speculation and dot connecting to wild guesses.

We’re not sure if we have even connected these dots correctly, but if so, Z. H. seems like a kid who was popular in school. The cards have great cover art and some speak to an earlier era with bell hops. Whatever the truth, it’s great to imagine a group of 8 year old children exchanging Valentines Day cards just as we did several decades later and as kids today do in school.

Happy Valentines, Z. H., whoever you are!

Some Valentines Day History

The history of Valentine’s Day is a bit of a mystery, but we do know that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome who defied Emperor Claudius II, who decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families and outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine ignored the edict and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexido, the United Kingdom, France and Australia as well as the United States. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day became popular around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.

Love Ephemera?

Love ephemera? So do we! Check out our Vintage Types shop in Etsy where you can see vintage Valentines Day cards like this one from the 1940s when love and rationing made their way onto a Valentines card:

We also have other cool stuff in Vintage Types like postcards, magazines, and books with stories from the past as well as vintage typewriters, type, pens, and more.

We’ll share some of those items and the stories that go with them in future posts.

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Dreaming of an early Spring

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We are in the depths of winter with a couple inches of snow on the ground here–an occasional occurrence that delights some here in the Southeast. The kids have the day off from school and the news is filled with calls for caution in driving.

We used to live in Iowa so we know about snow and cold weather, but there we were equipped with the right clothes and gear. Drivers had experience on icy roads and snow-related accidents were rare.

We moved south for a reason–to experience all four seasons including beautiful fall with its vibrant colors and SHORT winters. The past couple of winters have been chilly and this one is no exception. We’ve had many, many days in the teens, twenties and thirties. In short, we are ready for Spring! Bring us warm temperatures, picnic and outdoor weather, grilling on the back patio, temperatures conducive to long walks and washing the car by hand. Give us green grass, leafy trees and beautiful flowers.

We can’t rush Spring and its beautiful colors, but we can share a bit of color and imagine the warmth with some of our vintage brooches. These beauties date from the 1960s and are enamel on metal pinback brooches. Most have no maker’s mark but they are classic pins from the Flower Power era and we love them!

If you are stuck in the depths of winter, we hope like Frederick, the classic children’s sotry by author and illustrator Leo Lionni, they bring a ray of sunshine and hope for the coming Spring.

This bouquet of vintage brooches is available in our Eclectic Perspectives Etsy shop.

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Pure art!

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The Remington Rand Deluxe Model 5 is typewriter art! The Deluxe Model 5 has a bulbous shape and is painted in wrinkle paint and has a full-sized, horizontal carriage return lever. It is a a great size–not too large but still sturdy. It retailed for $54.50 when it debuted in the early 1940s.

We just added this beauty to our Etsy shop, Vintage Types.

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Re/defining womanhood in 1914

We recently came across an early 20th Century magazine with the title Womanhood with some other paper ephemera at an auction. This stood out as one of a few treasures in a grab bag of old papers, booklets and magazines we purchased at the auction (more on the other treasures in future posts).

This stood out to us for several reasons–the title of the publication and the fact that we hadn’t heard of it, the overall condition which is quite good for ephemera that is 100 years old, the images (more on that in a moment), and the articles. The articles are an amazing look back at some of the thinking about women and feminism in the early 1900s.

Womanhood Magazine, published by the Alumnae of the Sisters of Presentation in San Francisco in 1914

Womanhood Magazine, published by the Alumnae of the Sisters of Presentation in San Francisco in 1914

This was a publication unknown to us previously. We’d come across publications from the late 1800s and early 1900s like Ladies’ Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, and Woman’s Home Companion and a few others but not this one. A line below the title says it is “A Magazine Published by Presentation Alumnae” and we didn’t know that group although we assumed it was a school or college.

We did some research and learned that this magazine was the first issue of a publication of the alumae from San Francisco order of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With a bit more research we learned that the Presentation Sisters, also known as the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM for short) is a religious congregation of Roman Catholic women founded in Cork, Ireland by Nano Nagle in 1775 and that among their work, they operate schools around the world.

What we have is the first issue (of how many we don’t know) of the magazine of the PBVM in San Franciso, and it’s interesting at other levels, too. It’s a lovely magazine with many articles, advertisements and a few photos, but nearly all the photos are of men.

These are some of the photos from Womanhood Magazine, published in 1914 by the Alumnae of the Presentation Sisters.

These are some of the photos from Womanhood Magazine, published in 1914 by the Alumnae of the Presentation Sisters.

There are some ads or announcements with photos of Catholic schools in the San Francisco area but most feature men, like the photos above. This stands in contrast to the many women’s magazines we see today filled with images of woman, families, and children.

“Conditions of Our Times”

What really caught our attention was the articles or sections of the magazine which begin with an Announcement that reads, in part:

The first issue of Womanhood Magazine is born out of the conditions of our times as to things Feminine. In the great forward movement there are many signs of chaos–false prophets here and there are leading astray, pseudo-science blinds thousands to the true realities of life, and on all sides we see a loss of the sense of essential values in the pursuit of the ideals of the hour.

Although the great masses of womankind are sane and sound, and true to the fundamentals of our civilization, yet it is necessary that the right kind of leaders should furnish them with the proper principles that should guide them on their way. There should be beacon-lights in the midst of revolutionary hysteria–sign posts pointing to the true pathways. (p. 3)

The article goes on to suggest that these articles should be read “in every Woman’s Club” in the “interests of sanity, coherence and wisdom.” It mentions the “Radicals of the Feminine Movement” to learn the “truths in radical Feminism.”

The magazine includes poems that celebrate the virtues of women and womanhood–grace, charm, beauty. There are articles on “The Single Woman” that extol the virtue of virginity. There is an article on “The Woman of the Century” that describes the 20th century woman as “complex, kaleidoscopic, chameleon-like” as well as “alluring, deceptive, contradictory–confounding criticism, defying logic, eluding definition” (p. 9). Other articles include:

–The Three Mothers
–“Sister Mine”
–Woman in the Home
–Woman in Literature
–Woman in the Club
–Random Thoughts of a Business Woman
–Advice to Women-Voters
–The Right Job
–Children of the Pioneers
–Detached Thoughts

Women and Work

In the “Random Thoughts of a Business Woman,” the writer suggests that women are hard-working generalists who shoulder many domestic tasks while man is “one-sided, a specialist” (p. 63). The writer concludes that:

When women usurp the offices of men loyalty to employers makes them, in the words of Chesterton, fight for desk and typewriter as for hearth and home, and develop a sort of wolfish wifehood in behalf of the invisible head of the firm. This is why they do not work so well and why they should not do it. (p. 63)


The articles in Womanhood Magazine stake a traditional position on women at the turn of the 20th Century and take a dim view of Feminism.

The Politics of Women’s Suffrage

The publication delves into the politics of the times, and, in particular, the issue of Women’s suffrage including this piece from “Advice to Women-Voters”:

My next piece of advice is: study your politics at home. One of the reasons why you women of California were left voteless so long, and why women in other places still continue so is the fear that if you go into the voting business the domestic fire may go out, the baby may remain unfed, and the beds unmade. (pp. 67-68)

There are other political issues that arise in the publication but clearly Women’s suffrage was on the minds of the writer’s and editors. Views like the one above explain, in part, the male faces in the photos in the magazine which seem to say, “No women allowed” in politics.

Not a Laughing Matter

At one level it’s easy to laugh off these articles or see them as simply a voice for maintaining the status quo in the early 1900s. A darker view is that Womanhood seeks to subvert women’s progress in a patriarchal society. A reasonable analysis of the magazine might be all of these, but it is also a historical document that reveals the changing role of women in America in the early 20th Century.

We see in this publication that the Women’s Movement was making headway–so much so that an entire magazine was devoted to arguing against that what we now see as equal and civil rights.

It’s also tempting to view this primarily through the lens of religion–again, a good analysis needs to account for the role of church in debates about social issues in our country. It has certainly been the case that many churches, denominations and religious groups have fought to define the roles of the sexes in different and often narrow ways.

In doing some research on The Sisters of Presentation we learned that since their founding they have focused their work on the poor and especially on serving women and children in poverty. It’s easy to disagree with the message of Womanhood but respect other work of this religious congregation.

Women’s suffrage has a long history in the U.S. that predates the American Revolution. The movement culminated in 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified with this simple and powerful language: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

This is a fascinating piece of cultural, domestic and political history from the early the 20th Century that speaks to the changing nature of gender politics in the United States. It captures a conservative, patriarchal view about women from that era but also the debates about Women’s rights and the Suffrage Movement. It seems to define, refine and re-define womanhood and femininity.

It’s finds like these that make the search for vintage texts so interesting!

For More Information

For more information about The Sisters of Presentation you can check out their website at The San Francisco group also has a website: Both websites provide information about the history of the PBVM.

You can view additional photos of our copy of Womanhood Magazine in our Vintage Types Etsy shop.

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A warm hearth on winter nights

Although we live in the South, our winter has been colder than usual. Last week we hit record lows in the single digits–something rare for our part of the Piedmont in the Carolinas. We’ve had the thermostat set a bit higher and have used our gas fireplace a bit more and turned on the electric blanket at night. Perhaps the frigid temps (we lived in the Midwest so we know it is relative) provided the impetus we needed to buy a cast iron stove when it came up at auction.

Whatever the motivation, it’s a beauty…a vintage “Speedy,” manufactured by the Columbus Iron Works of Columbus, Georgia.

The Columbus  Georgia Convention & Trade Center has a wonderful history of the Iron Works on its webpage. We share a bit here:

“For over a century, the Columbus Iron Works…furnished goods for homes, farms, steamboats, and mills. The company’s products and its steady growth were important factors in the economic development of Columbus and the region. In 1853, William R. Brown, who had operated a foundry since the 1840’s, organized the larger Columbus Iron Works. This expansion mirrored the transformation of Columbus from a frontier town (1828) into one of the earliest and largest southern industrial centers; by 1860, its textile production ranked second within the South. Reflecting this vitality, the Columbus Iron Works, though less than a decade old in 1860, already manufactured a wide variety of merchandise: kettles and ovens; brass castings; cast-iron columns and store fronts; sugar, a grist, and saw mills; and steam engines to power these mills, cotton gins, and riverboats.” []

The Iron Works was in production during the Civil War but was burned in 1865. It was rebuilt and expanded and then burned again in 1902. It rebuilt again and over time focused on fewer, more profitable items like farm implements and cast iron stoves (like ours). They even developed a line of early gas grills. Eventually, the Bradley Company absorbed the Columbus Iron Works and, in the early 1970s moved the foundry and forge to new plants. The two descendants of the Columbus Iron Works are extremely viable today.

It’s good to know that the descendants of our cast iron stove live on in products still manufactured today. We love our gas grill but if I had a cabin or home with a basement, I’d love to warm that space with our stove. It is in wonderful condition and ready to be fired up! We’ve both had homes warmed by wood stoves and they provide terrific heat. We both have fond memories of coming in from an icy day and warming our backsides by the wood stove. However, for now, Speedy is gracing one of antique booths at The Depot at Gibson Mill in Concord, N.C. We hope it soon finds new work heating hearth and home.

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A web of family, community and faith

NOTE: This blog post brings together my love of picking, print, genealogy and the stories that bind families to the communities in which they live. I thought long and hard about privacy issues related to this blog post. In it I write about someone who lived up the road from us in North Carolina. We came across her name and story when we purchased and researched an old Baptismal document at an auction. The subject of this post–Virgie May Josey–died in the early 1970s and others in her family are deceased. Given that more than more than 40 years have passed and that I am not delving into personal details, I decided to go ahead and share what we’ve learned about Virgie May. I hope Miss Virgie and her family approve. 

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We came across this beautiful old baptism certificate at an auction recently. It dates to 1893 and after we got it home, we learned that it is for Virgie May Josey, the child of John and Laura A. Josey.

Miss Virgie–I’m taking liberties but mean so respectfully–was born June 13, 1893 and was baptized on Nov. 1, 1893 in the Organ Evangelical Lutheran Church of Rowan County, North Carolina. I’d never heard of the Organ congregation or of that as the name of any church. Curiosity being what it is I searched on the Internet and found some great history on both this congregation, the Lutheran church in North Carolina and on Miss Virgie.

Genealogical records located at and show that Miss Virgie was born and appears to have lived her entire life in Rowan County, North Carolina, which is just north of where we live in Concord, N.C. (we go there fairly often, in fact). She was married in 1911 to Robert Franklin Sifford, and she died in Rowan County in 1972. Genealogy only gets you so far but it raises some great questions. For example, it appears from the information in WikiTree that both Virgie May and her husband, Robert Franklin, died on the same day–May 17, 1972. I love genealogy and have records on literally thousands of ancestors throughout branches of my family and that of my wife and can’t think of an instance when two spouses died on the same day. It happens but it is rare. Of course, the information on the web could be incorrect.

We learned a bit more about one of Virgie May and Robert’s sons, his place of work and information about his death, and we could have delved more deeply using the Internet and the genealogical databases but stopped there. Fascinating though it is, it isn’t our family.

We found information about the church and Lutheranism in North Carolina including photos of the church at the Library of Congress website. We share those here.

Clearly, this was a beautiful church and an important part of its community. It played a key role in the establishment of the Lutheran church in North Carolina. Here is some of the relevant information we learned from the website:

“Among the immigrants that came to America to build a new life following economic reversals and religious persecutions in the late 1600s and early 1700s were German Lutherans, who first went to New York and Pennsylvania and then migrated south through Virginia into North Carolina. The state’s oldest existing Lutheran congregations are in Guilford and Rowan Counties, with official organization dates of 1745. (There is evidence of a Lutheran congregation of Swiss in New Bern as early as 1710, but they were wiped out in an Indian attack shortly afterward.)

Most of the early congregations in North Carolina depended on lay leadership and a small number of pastors coming down from Pennsylvania. In 1772 Zion (now Organ) congregation in Rowan County and St. John’s in Cabarrus County sent delegates to Germany in search of a pastor, returning with Pastor Adolphus Nussmann and Johann Gottfried Arends, a schoolteacher who was later ordained. With increasing numbers of congregations came the need for organization, and in 1803 the North Carolina Lutheran Synod, the first such body in the South, was established, with headquarters in Salisbury. In 1820-as a consequence of theological differences between advocates of “old” Lutheranism and “American,” progressive Lutheranism-several North Carolina congregations and pastors joined with others in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia to form the more conservative Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod. That same year the General Synod, the first national organization of American Lutherans, was formed in Hagerstown, Md. Representatives from both the North Carolina and Tennessee Synods participated.” (

From the website of St. John’s Lutheran we learned that the Lutheran churches were among the first sites of schools in our community (Cabarrus County). Jon Maria and I are both educators and love learning about the history of education in our community.

Picking is so much more than finding something old and collecting or selling it. It is about bringing the past into the present. This is a lovely piece of family, community and church history. The certificate has some condition issues but the stories that intersect in that document are both fascinating and important.

For more information about Organ Lutheran Church, we share the following web links:

You can see additional photos of the baptismal certificate in the Vintage Types shop in Etsy.

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