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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Makin' a wish~

Good morning all.

A good friend of mine touched base with me today hoping that I could help locate a special want. Well actually two. He's on the prowl for a couple of bottles to "make his day". I've got a couple of each, but until the time comes to liquidate my collection, they are firmly entrenched here.
Not neccesarily in order, Choice Old Cabinet glop top or tool top in the new mold. And of course the venerable Tea kettle~

And so here's hoping that someone out there has a duplicate that they'd be willing to cut loose of. Of course, the label is strictly optional (nice but not neccesary).

Lemme know what you have. Send me a detailed description and crisp unaltered digital photos and I'll try to help grant his wish.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

News Flash - Blind Squirrel finds acorn!

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Ebay's auction format has earned a much deserved black eye in the antique bottle world. The overwhelming abundance of ignorant sellers and unscrupulous scoundrels is nothing short of amazing.

The lack of photographic skills, kindergarten level spelling and punctuation, combined with inaccurate descriptions or downright deceptions never ceases to amaze me. And the "one of a kind" one line J. H. Cutters, and the unlisted Roth Lawton Rye's with the "no harm 1/2" flea nibble and crack running from base to lip" are always cheap entertainment.

But once in a blue moon, something really awesome makes an appearance. If listed properly, in the right category, and with "Lou-esque" photography, the sky is the limit. Take for example the Phoenix Whiskey that recently sold for in excess of $1450~; without a doubt, a new "high altitude record" for that bottle. Nice; no arguments here, but how much...
On the flip side, there are some sleepers still making an appearance. Few and far between, but still out there. I just wish there was a way to design software to sleuth these buys out~ But, until it becomes available, you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

The other day I got a call from a fellow collector asking what I knew about Seagrams 7 advertising decanters. "Just send me some photos " and I'll look in my Jim Beam / Ezra Brooks blah, blah, blah, (yawn) catalogue and see what it was worth back in the 70's... A couple of days later I received some pics of the "Seagrams 7 decanter" that he was curious about.

Lousy auction listing photos at best; but good enough to give me a wake up call! The logo, smack dab in the center of this piece literally screamed San Francisco.

Hello Earnest Rueben Lilienthal!


And the decanter wasn't some cheesy white glaze ceramic piece, it was glass (probably flint or lead) with ornate etching and a tulip shaped lip topped by an ornate faceted bulbous closure. Oh, and did I mention that it advertised a brand we'd never heard of? Yup, "Noble White Rye".


Obviously the Creme de la Creme of the Cyrus Noble Line.

Once in a blue moon, watching ebay pays off.
Yep, that squirrel found himself one heck of an acorn!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Good by friend~


Rick just posted this on the bitters site. I feel it neccesary to post it here as well.


I am very sad to report Mike Dolcini passed away today December 4th at 3:00 pm. Mike will be greatly missed by all of his friends and the bottle collecting community. What a great loss to all of us that knew Mike and to the bottle collecting hobby.
Mike was an avid digger, collector and researcher of western related bottles, advertising, antiques and Winchester rifles. No details as of yet but I will post the details about the services when I receive the information.
My feelings follow;
Mike was a great person and a valued member of our fraternity. He also was an invaluable researcher and contributed greatly to the hobby. As a fellow collector of both western whiskies and antique Winchesters, I can say that he will leave a void in both hobbies.

I'll miss you, Mike.

PS: Here's a link that you my find interesting;

A Personality Flaw...


Crown Distilleries miniature, amber 5" tall, rare slug plate variant w/correct
Embossed Riley inside thread stopper.
Ok, I admit it, I'm not perfect. I've got lots of small flaws in my personality. Such is life. I've done my best to overcome these flaws as I've aged. My efforts have been successful most of the time. But I still have two glaring faults. And frankly, there's nothing that I can do about them.

You see, I HATE thieves. I know, HATE (bad word) - not very biblical, especially at this time of the year. Tough luck. And worse yet, I don't have an off switch. Yep, beneath this normally affable facade, white hair and smiles, lies the worst flaw I possess. You see, the fuse is long, but once lit, it's probably best not stick around to see the end result.

Auburn has been marked on my calendar for thirty some years. Mostly as an attendee as I could never seem to get a sales table and the waiting list was long. Friend, Steve Abbott, finally got my foot in the door four years ago. And my table location seemed like the cats meow; front and center, right across from the entry table.

Trouble is, my wife's schedule precludes her from attending. As such, I'm alone trying to meet and greet fellow collectors at the table, handle sales and watch my wares. Year one I had a glop top whiskey disappear to the tune of a grand. Yep, a thousand smackers. So much for breaking even after expenses. Year two, two bottles grew legs. The loss was significant; way / way over the first in terms of value. Not to mention the pissed off level.

And so, that brings us to 2012. Mike McKillop was good enough to move my location down to the lower building where I'd hoped to get a break from the thievery. Not! Friday afternoon saw Tom at the table in back of me loose a high dollar ink. Saturday greeted me with the theft of a rare variant of the Crown Distilleries miniature. No matter how much diligence one pays to their table, it appears that it's never enough. There are low life SOB's that seem to crawl out of the woodwork every year at this show.

I am, in a nutshell, fed up. I'm beyond pissed that some moron (or morons) feels that it's perfectly acceptable to steal. Did I mention that I HATE thieves?

The fuse is lit.

You (thief) will get sloppy. You (thief) will get caught in the act. You (thief) will attempt to escape being retained by us (that's right not just by me, as everyone is fed up) for the authorities. And when we are done "subduing you", the police will be the least of your worries.

As old pal Rick Simi just posted on the Western Bitters website; "You have been warned!"

No brag; just fact.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Countdown to Auburn!

Coming soon, to a Gold Country near you!

Snip courtesy of ABA - Thanks Jeff~

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Roth & Co.

Every now and then I get something interesting in my "mailbox". This morning I received an email from a non-collector who's wife had somehow fallen heir to a piece of history.

His letter read;

"I am not a collector or dealer, just a guy whose wife was recently given an amber-colored glass Roth & Co. (San Francisco) Bourbon Whisky bottle that is very obviously from right after the 1906 earthquake.  She would like to dispose of it for what it is worth, and is of course nervous that since wee (sic) don’t know anything about bottle collecting, she might let get (sic) skunked by some very experienced (but unscrupulous) collector.  Can you give us some idea what this might be worth and the best way for someone who has no interest in collecting, or indeed bottles at all, to expose it to the right potential collectors?


Here's a photo of the label / labels; or rather what's left;

He went on to add;
 " Description: Cylindrical, amber glass, not embossed Roth & Co.  No chips or cracks. Some bubbles in glass. Bottom is embossed:

(Ahhh, there's that H again - only now we know that it is Heunisch and not Holt!)
Has an internal screw-top stopper, stippled on top, not marked with any company name.
The remains of a purple lead seal still present.  The labels have not been cleaned.
The most interesting label is still glued around neck.  It is imprinted in red letters:
Wait for it...
" This is a genuine Package of Roth & Co’s own Bottling and is
only temporary, as our stock and supplies were all destroyed in
the great San Francisco Fire, April 18th, 19th and 20th.
ROTH & CO. 20 - __  NO BRYANT ST "
Ok, so the photos aren't much but what is fascinating is the address on the neck label. Most of us know that Roth and Co. was located at 316 Market St. at 5:12 AM on April 18, 1906. That location turned into a big wet black spot (WBS in firefighter lingo) by about noon that day; the firm loosing their entire inventory of liquor, bottles and everything else needed to conduct business. We also knew that by 1907, they were residing comfortably in their new digs located at 115 -117 Front St.; less than a block away.

 However, the location of Roth & Co. in the months immediately following the earthquake has remained a mystery; until now. Bryant St. (probably in the 200 block), which coincidentally or not, is just 4 short blocks from the old Market St. location was their (a) temporary location; or was it? In an attempt to pinpoint the address, I located a book entitled; "Relief business directory, May, 1906; giving names, business and address of San Francisco firms and business men who were compelled to change their location by the disaster of April 18 : and who have since located in San Francisco".

But rather than pinpoint the Bryant St. location, it gives yet another for Roth & Co.; 1935 Clay St. the month following the disaster.
Actually, not surprising, since this area of the City was comparatively unaffected by the holocaust that incinerated the business district following the devastating tremor.
Survival of the fittest, I'd say.
And so, we can now add yet two more locations to the seemingly endless list of addresses occupied by Roth & Co. over their incredible sixty year tenure in the wholesale liquor industry of San Francisco.
Oh, and if anyone is interested, the bottle is available and I can put you in touch with the owner. For just plain 1906 S.F. Earthquake history as it relates to the wholesale liquor trade, this example is tough to top.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Verrry Intersting~

OK, not neccesarily about tool top western whiskies; (per se). But interesting nonetherless.

Please excuse the side track in advance of the next tool top article.

Causes of Death You Won’t Want on Your Death Certificate

Among the more interesting details you may find on a death record is the cause of death. Even more so when that cause leads a story:
Pint-sized problems
Anyone who has spent long hours staring small screens or reading small type knows a little about eye strain, but who knew it could be fatal? This 1880 census mortality schedule from Leadville, Colorado reveals that J. Nash died from “Sore Eyes.” Consider yourself warned.

It was loaded?
Accidental deaths may be reported in newspapers, as was the case with Ohio politician and lawyer, Clement Vallandigham. Clement was defending a murder suspect and trying to demonstrate the possibility that the victim had shot himself. He attempted to demonstrate his theory, but grabbed a loaded gun by accident. His reenactment proved fatal. This article from The Herald and Torch Light of Hagerstown, Maryland (21 June 1871) describes the accident and the aftermath.
The defendant was eventually acquitted, but in 1875, he too succumbed to a bullet wound when he was shot in his saloon.
Death by Safe
Although Jack Daniel’s death certificate only lists “blood poisoning from operation,” the full story of the famous distiller’s death is a bit unusual. Apparently in frustration in not being able to open his safe, he kicked it, injuring his toe. The resulting infection was responsible for his death. The deadly safe is on display in Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg.
It Really Was a Wild, Wild West
If you think that the gunfights of the American West were a product of Hollywood, a look at some mortality schedules might change your mind. This Arizona City, Yuma County, Arizona mortality schedule is a good example. Eleven of the thirty-one deaths reported were due to wounds, a fracture of the skull, shootings, or stabbings.
At the bottom of the page, in the remarks section, the enumerator notes that, “I expect a great many violent deaths, this being a frontier county where all disputes are settled by the use of weapons, and it occurs between transient and single men who have no families.”
No Doubt, fueled by a lethal combination of youth, testosterone, and alcohol.

Funny (or not) how, a century later, some things change and yet others remain a constant.
Courtesy: (in part)  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

To clean, or not to clean; that is the question.

I may need some tar remover and a place to put the feathers, but here goes~ 

I recently made the acquaintance of a gentleman in the State of Jefferson that has cleaned antique bottles. And during the course of our conversation, the topic of whether cleaning was an ethical practice came up. What, with all the controversy being stirred up by an individual on the east coast about cleaning, misrepresentation, "criminal acts of the process", ad nauseum; the discussion was inevitable.
The concept behind cleaning is simple; a bottle which was once in pristine condition has been buried in soil. The minerals, acids and or alkalis in the soil react with the components in the glass and an exchange takes place whereby the previously bright and sparkly glass becomes opaque at best, or etched at worst. This process has been generically referred to as "opalization" over the years. Simply, the bottle is no longer in it's original state and is unattractive to look at.
In the old days, (1960's - 1970's) a wet cotton wheel attached to a washing machine motor was used and grits of varying grades were combined to make a slurry which was applied to the cotton wheel. Once this was done, the bottle was ground away on in hopes of removing the stain. This constantly resulted in bottles that had the embossing all but worn off and broken bottles due to excessive friction and heat. Thank God those days are apparently long gone.


According to what I was told, the wheel has been reinvented and the process now bears no resemblence to the old style of cleaning. Being of open mind, and having owned numerous rare but badly stained western whiskies over time, I was like a sponge. Modern cleaning merely removes the opalization and restores the glass back to it's original condition. It does not add an additional coating to or alter the basic makeup of the glass. Nor does it grind away glass along with the stain. And that's where I begin to realize that modern bottle cleaning is an attribute and not a detraction to a bottle. Again, it is simply restoring the glass to it's pre- disposal condition.

The particular machine used by this person was made and marketed by Mr. Wayne Lowry, also known as the "Jar Doctor". At first glance one can see the quality and attention to detail put into this machine. It features easily adjustable rollers that accomodate different sized cylinders to allow different size and shape bottles to be cleaned. According to what I was told, the process is simple. The base "stopple" has fingers that grip the base of the bottle when it is inserted into the cylinder. The bottle is first loaded with fine pieces of copper wire and powdered oxide. Water is added to the inside of the bottle just above the copper. The bottle is inserted into the cylinder and the mouth plugged temporarily to allow addition of more copper, oxide and water to the inside of the cylinder without adding more to the bottle. Once this is done, a "cone stopple" is inserted into the mouth of the bottle and the cylinder is sealed by use of a compression gasket and wing nut. The cylinder goes onto the rollers and a switch gets flipped to begin the process. The cylinder ends get reversed about twice a day in order to change the direction of rotation. This allows the copper and oxide to get into every recess and avoid over cleaning in either direction. After a period of time ranging from one to three days, depending on the amount of stain present and hardness of the glass, the switch is flipped off and the cylinder opened up. The slurry is rinsed off of and out of the bottle using tepid water and the bottle is gone over with a quick rub down of soft scrub outside and ammonia inside to remove any remaining traces of oxide. Assuming that all went according to plan, the "opalization" is gone and the bottle now looks exactly as it did before being tossed out with the garbage, a century or more before. According to this person, he's never broken a bottle.
Now, before you decide to run out and buy a machine, be advised that they are expensive. Like any tool, price and quality generally go hand in hand. The particular machine that I was introduced to sells for well over a grand plus shipping.

Northern California is famous for good bottles. It's also famous for nasty soil that eats glass. Often bottles, rare or not, are so sick that they are relegated to a box in the shed rather than being placed on a display shelf. I viewed before and after photos of a number of bottles that had been dug and then cleaned. Impressive to say the least. 

Apparently, the learning curve of modern bottle cleaning is challenging at best. Early black glass from the Gold Rush era of 1850 differs in composition and hardness compared to say a San Francisco whiskey dating from the 1870's or 80's. And, "tap*tap - no erasies" is the rule of the day when you screw up. As such, it's often a good idea from both a cost and risk standpoint to solicit the services of a professional. Lou Lambert, and a few others out there have elevated modern bottle cleaning to a science. My hats off to those that have expended the time and energy to perfect bottle cleaning in the 21st century!

It does go without saying that once it's time to move a bottle along, the potential buyer must be made aware of the fact that it has been cleaned; that's just common courtesy.

 The vast majority of the collectors that I associate with would much prefer to own a bottle that has been cleaned compared to one that is so sick that it belongs tucked away in a box. Based on my observations, there is no question in my mind that done properly, bottle cleaning is ethical and does nothing to alter a bottle; it simply restores it 's appearance to pre-disposal condition. Furthermore, it preserves a piece of history that we can all be proud to own instead of having to make excuses for.

Thanks to what I've recently learned, I think that it's a travesty to leave a good (but stained) bottle stuffed away when it can be restored to as new appearance and be proudly displayed for all to enjoy.


Monday, October 15, 2012

One of life's mystery's

Ebay never ceases to amaze me with the sheer volume of "stuff" that comes to the auction block. Most of it is pretty ho-hum. The quantity of "rare" and or "one of a kind" ten dollar tool top whiskeys listed for $100~ boggles the mind. And yet, once in a blue moon a real rarity appears. I spotted just such a thing this morning while perusing the latest and greatest listings over morning coffee.

Listed by a seller named "badgerlaunch"; it's actually not a bottle that caught my eye, but a cast iron (or brass or bronze) advertising go-with. It is the first of these I recall seeing or even hearing of! At first glance I thought, how cool; Wolters Bros. was running a scam on Spruance Stanley & Co. by using their horse shoe logo on a saloon giveaway. But a second glance at the picture caused me to do a double take. WoTTers Bros / not Wolters. Huh?


That's when the piece really caught my interest. I've never seen any reference to Wolters Bros. without being listed as "Wholesale" liquors; not "liquor dealers". Not on a bottle, not on a shot glass and not on a billhead. And then the abbreviation for California is cast on the pieces as "Cala"; not "Cal.".

A quick stroll through the S.F. historical newspaper archives shows no recorded entity by the name of Wotters Bros. from 1870 - 1900. Same goes for the city business directories. Ok, so let's assume that it was a typo. Why stop there when you can have a two-fer and really fowl up the order; hence the term "liquor dealers" instead of wholesale liquors? If I recall, Cala was a little used abbreviation of California during the latter part of the 19th century, especially in the southern part of the state. But why go to the bother of adding an extra vowel when you could just as easily cast the letters Ca. or Cal.?

This piece has all the ear markings of being the real deal, instead of a modern Chinese or Indian fantasy repro (ie; fake) since it appears to be corroded and bears evidence of having some sort of a faux copper plate at one time that has long since eroded due to burial. My guess is that it was indeed an advertising give away commissioned by Wolters Bros. & Co. in the late 1880's or early 90's and it was rejected due to the myriad of mistakes present.

 What's your take fellow collectors?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canyonville Countdown
Wow, one week (correction - 1 Day!) and counting. October 6th will be here before we know it!

Looks like the weather is cooperating. Here's the advanced forcast for showtime; perfect~

The response to this years show has been well ahead of the curve compared to past years. We sold out of dealer space early, real early, this year and have a pretty healthy waiting list. We had to add display spaces to accomodate demand this year. And inquiries from the general public regarding our appraisal and onsite auction services continue to stream in. One gentleman in Northern California inquired about auctioning "100 insulators and well over 200 bottles, all of which are in excellent condition". Another person is consigning a Radam's Microbe Killer jug. And yet another has committed to auctioning an amber Fleckenstein and Meyer flask. I received some photos today from a local collector who is downsizing his collection and is bringing the following items to auction. 
For the insulator crowd there's a Locke porcelain.

And for the bottle folks, a picture soda from Concord, Ca.,

plus a scarce Lotus / BPOE flask from Portland.
Thought I'd add this photo that arrived today (Sat. the 29th) Of the Fleck. A little fuzzy but Wow, just the same!

Come join us for our 10th anniversary at the Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville!
See you soon~

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beavers 'n Bears?

And other ramblings...

Huh? Well I'm from Oregon and I collect picture whiskies, among other things. I've got a number of whiskies with pictures of the California grizzly bear on them. Oregon is the "Beaver State". You'd think that there would be a Beaver picture whiskey. About the closest thing to one though, is the Beaver Brand etched picture shot glass from Brunn & Co. out of Portland.


This past weekend saw many of us trekking north on HiWay 49 to Downieville, where Rick and Cherry Simi once again hosted an amazing BBQ in conjunction with the annual show, located in the heart of the northern Gold Country of California. As always, the D'ville Show was fanatastic. I published an in depth article last year entitled "What's not to like?"

It spelled out most everyone's feelings about the show and this year was a repeat of last.
As is so often the case, discussions about western bottles ultimately swung around to western whiskies. One collector observed that I must have a large and diverse grouping of Oregon whiskeyana in my collection since I've resided in Oregon for the past 37 years. I thought for a moment and responded with a simple, "Nope". It took a moment but a mental inventory revealed; one glop top Van Schuyver, one glop Rick Rack Hotaling, a clothes brush and a couple of picture whiskies (El Kader and Henry Fleckenstein with the griffin on it). He then mentioned that the Henry Fleckenstein didn't count because Bill Wilson said it was an eastern bottle. Not so, I stated, and here's the rest of the story~


Bill Wilson, in his book Spirits Bottles of the Old West, documented the existence of a very scarce picture fifth cylinder, #68-5, embossed simply, "Henry Fleckenstein & Co. in an arch above a picture of a Griffin". The bottle is clear, but will purple, and has a tooled long tapered collar over a single ring.
Wilson further went on to state that this bottle was distributed in the east, might be related to Fleckenstein & Meyer of Portland, and dated it ca. 1895 - 1905 and. And so, for decades, the bottle was assumed to be eastern and despite the rarity, was accorded little to no respect.
That changed in the early 1980's when I obtained an advertising brush that plainly shows Henry Fleckenstein & Co. / Portland Ore. / Bear Valley Whiskey. So much for the east coast thing...

It was about that time that I acquired another picture cylinder. It was embossed simply "El Kader / Fine Old / Whiskey", and pictured what was quite obviously the Shriners symbol.

I placed the El Kader on the shelf next to the Henry Fleckenstein & Co. and noted that the bottle from the neck down and the slug plates were an exact match. Sure the neck was a little longer but that happens all the time. Coincidence?
Both the El Kader and the "Griffin" cylinder are rare, with probably no more than a half dozen of each in collections. But proving that they were truly western whiskies and linking them positively to a liquor dealer would prove daunting to say the least. Life is full of assumptions, maybes, gut feelings and suppositions. But, without solid proof in the form of advertising, a bill head or a letter, my hunch remained just that.
Up until a few years ago, I never paid any attention to pre-pro shot glasses. That changed in an instant when I purchased a huge collection of western pre-pro glasses, which included well over 100 examples. And with that purchase came the opportunity to connect the dots to a lot of western whiskey mysteries. Those little advertising gems have proved to be an amazing source of information; including clearing up the El Kader mystery.

When I returned home this week, I thought it would be interesting to dig a little deeper into Mr. Fleckenstein and see what relationship he had to the firm of Fleckenstein & Meyer. I lucked out and actually gained access to the who's who of pre 1900 Portland Oregon.
Henry Fleckenstein
Henry Fleckenstein was born in the city of Worms, Germany on September 14, 1838
At the age of 16 years he was apprenticed in the brewing business He mastered the business, after which he came to this country, landing in New York in 1860. Until 1863 he worked at his trade in St. Louis, also a brewing head- quarters after which, in May, he returned to New York, later going to Aspinwall and thence crossing the Isthmus, arriving in San Francisco in 1863.
He later went to Honolulu, but the climate failed to agree with him. Returning to San Francisco, he moved north at the end of a month to Portland in 1863 where he was employed for a year or more in the Weinhard brewery in Portland as a foreman, after which he started a bottling works in the fall of 1866. He abandoned that ambition a year later and engaged in the wholesale liquor business, in which he remained up to the time of his death. It was in 1867 that he was married to Christine Wittman, a daughter of Nicholas Wittman. The firm name for many years was Fleckenstein & Mayer. He was the senior member of this wholesale liquor firm until March 4, 1902, when he dissolved partnership and organized the firm of Henry Fleckenstein & Co. at 122 Second street On April 1, 1902. Mr. Fleckenstein supplied a constantly increasing trade in Oregon and other states. He was prominent in both business and official circles.
Brands marketed by Henry Fleckenstein & Co. after 1902  included; "Elk Tooth", "High and Dry", and "Belle of the Pacific", as well as the aforementioned Bear Valley and El Kader.
He also registered the following whiskies under the Henry Fleckenstein "label";
Serial #30462 - Buck Valley 5/21/1908
Serial #30803 - Diamond Hill also 5/21/1908
Documented addresses included 235 Oak (1903-1906), 68-72 2 nd (1907-1915).
In addition, 204 - 206 Second St. was recently added to the list thanks to the business card above and the following photograph.
Henry Fleckenstein died of heart failure on July 5, 1910; he was  72 years old. At the time of his death, he was an exempt fireman, a member of the Elks, A.O.U.W. and the I.O.O.F. and also of the Chamber of Commerce and the Commercial Club.

Al Kader Shriners History

The Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine was founded in 1872 by a group of 13 men belonging to the Masonic Order. It was originally established to provide fun and fellowship for its members. Al Kader was the 46th charter and the first in the Pacific Northwest. It was originally located in the City of Portland.

No references were found linking Henry to the organization. And so the question begs, was the Elkader brand a tribute to, or a jab at, AL Kader and the Shriners organization? I guess that mystery will remain shouded in the mists of time~


In closing I'd like to say that we have Henry Fleckenstein to thank for some of the most desirable of the Oregon glop top cylinders and early flasks, in the form of the Fleckenstein & Meyer bottles, as well as two of the scarcest tool top western picture whiskies.

Thanks Henry!
Shot glass photos courtesy of Robin Preston~

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