Wisconsin Library Heritage Center

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation promoting understanding and appreciation of the history of libraries and librarianship in Wisconsin.

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Memorabilia Exhibit Milwaukee

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Monday, March 30, 2009
in Exhibits

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Today, with the assistance of my wife Kathy and Dawn Lauber of the Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) staff, I installed the Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit at the Central Library of MPL for the month of April.  MPL generously made available eight display cases for the exhibit which is on the second floor of the library. It includes one of the largest collections of Wisconsin library memorabilia ever assembled. This exhibit is supplemented by MPL's permanent vintage library office exhibit (see photo below, pardon the glare from the glass). The permanent exhibit includes an example of the pencil dater that was invented by the Milwaukee Public Library.  In addition to the pemanent exhibit MPL will be displaying other items including some vintage wooden cases used to transport books to the branch libraries.  Of course, a visit to MPL's magnificent Central Library which was originally built in 1898 is a treat in itself. 



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On This Day 1903

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Friday, March 06, 2009
in Carnegie libraries

pc-wi-janesville-72.jpgAccording to the Wisconsin Historical Society, on this day in 1903 construction began on the Janesville Public Library.  Andrew Carnegie had approved a grant of $30,000 on March 1, 1901 to assist with the contruction of the library. It was one of seven communities in Wisconsin to receive Carnegie grants in that same year. In addition to the grant from Carnegie, F. S. Eldred donated $10,000 for the Janesville library's children's room. The Carnegie library building in Janesville is still in existence and has has been converted to a senior center.


 

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Neenah's Carnegie

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on Tuesday, February 10, 2009
in Carnegie libraries

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Volume I of the History of Winnegago County Wisconsin by Publius V. Lawson (C. F. Cooper & Co., Chicago, 1908, page 474) recounts the story of how Neenah, Wisconsin got its Carnegie Library.


"Robert Shiells [former president of Neenah's subscription library] still kept up his interest in the work [of the library] and one day in 1904 wrote a letter to Andrew Carnegie suggesting that he furnish the funds for a library building in Neenah.  The reply was that a town with so much wealth could well build their own building.  Mr. Shiells replied, they were building public improvements, schools and churches, and therefore could with good grace call on Mr. Carnegie to furnish the library. But he still refused. There lives in Washington Mr. William R. Smith, the landscape gardener at the White House for the last fifty-five years.  He is a great student of Robert Burns, and of course a Scotchman.  He had gathered together a duplicate of the library used by Burns, many of them the very books used by Burns, and as near as possible the same editions.  Mr. Andrew Carnegie is a great friend of Mr. Smith, and spends many days each year at his home in Washington.  During this correspondence he was at the home of Mr. Smith, and asked him if he knew of a Scotchman out at Neenah, Wisconsin, named Robert Shiells.  He said he did not know him personally, but was well acquainted with him by his writing, and thought a great deal of him, and if  he ever went west he promised himself to call on Mr. Shiells.  Then Mr. Carnegie told of the correspondence.  Mr. Smith said, 'Why, Andy, you made a mistake; give Mr. Shiells his library.'  Then Mr. Carnegie replied, 'All right, Smith, I will do it.'  One day soon after, a little to his surprise, the letter came to Mr. Shiells offering the city $10,000, provided they would support it with $1,000 per annum.  The offer was accepted.  The citizens raised $15,000 in addition, of which Theda Clark gave $5,000 and the site where it is at present located.  It cost nearly $30,000."


The Carnegie building was razed to make way for the current Neenah Public Library building. The Friends of the Neenah Library are a Founding Contributor of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center for which we are grateful.  


T. B. Scott Free Library

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on Wednesday, February 04, 2009
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T. B. Scott, for whom the T. B. Scott Free Library in Merrill is named, willed the City of Merrill $10,000 in 1886 to found a free public library.  In a special election in 1889, 120 years ago, residents voted to establish the public library. In 1909, 100 years ago, Merrill received a grant of $17,500 from Andrew Carnegie for a new library building. The building which was designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Starck opened in 1911. An extensive expansion and rennovation of the building was completed in 2001. The library has a detailed outline of its history on its website, something we recommend for every library. If you look at the history, you will note that the library has benefited from the leadership of some outstanding Wisconsin librarians. We especially like the fact that a link to the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website has been placed on their library history page. We are also grateful that the T. B. Scott Free Library is a Founding Contributor to the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center.


Milwaukee-Downer College

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on Monday, February 02, 2009
in Academic libraries

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Milwaukee-Downer College, one of Wisconsin's historic colleges, ceased to exist as a separate institution in 1964 when it became part of Lawrence University. Milwaukee-Downer College was created in 1895 when Milwaukee Female College (founded in 1851) merged with Downer College (founded as Wisconsin Female College in 1855). The former campus of Milwaukee-Downer College along with the Chapman Memorial Library building was sold to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1964.  The Lawrence University webpage for Milwaukee-Downer College is located here.


The former Chapman Memorial Library building of Milwaukee-Downer College is now Chapman Hall on the UW-Milwaukee campus and houses administrative offices. The library was built in 1937 from the bequest of Alice Greenwood Chapman,a graduate of Milwaukee Female College. The Teakwood Room in the library was moved to the Lawrence University campus along with library's rare book collection which is now housed in the Milwaukee-Downer Room of the Seeley G. Mudd Library.


Digital images of Milwaukee-Downer College including the Chapman Memorial Library are included in the Lawrence University Archives which are located here. The postcard image of the Reference Room of Chapman Memorial Library at the top of this page is part of Larry T. Nix's postcard collection. 



pc-wi-downer2-72.jpgThis postcard was mailed in 1907 and shows an interior view of the library building which preceded the Chapman Memorial Library. 


South Milwaukee Exhibit

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on Sunday, February 01, 2009
in Carnegie libraries

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The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit is on display in the months of February and March at the South Milwaukee Public Library as part of their 110th anniversary celebration. South Milwaukee received a $15,000 grant on September 29, 1915 from Andrew Carnegie for a new public library building. That building was razed in 1965. It was one of 63 public library buildings in Wisconsin that were built with assistance from Carnegie.


A Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) view of the razed South Milwaukee Public Library Carnegie Building.


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Carthage College Lincoln Connection

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on Saturday, January 24, 2009
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The nation is celebrating the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth this year. Wisconsin has a number of connections to Abraham Lincoln including those of Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Carthage College was founded in 1847 as the Literary and Theological Institute of the Lutheran Church of the Far West.  After a series of name changes it became Carthage College when it moved to Carthage, Illinois in 1870. It relocated to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1962. Abraham Lincoln served as a Trustee of the College in 1860-61 and sent his oldest son Robert Todd to the Preparatory Department of the College when the college was located in Springfiled, Illinois. The special envelope above was created when the "A Nation of Readers" stamp was issued in October of 1984. 


A high point in the recent history of the college was the dedication of the Hedberg Library on October 18, 2002. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington gave the dedicatory address. The Hedberg Library at Carthage College was the 2004 Wisconsin Library Association Library of the Year.


Death of a Library

Posted by Larry Nix
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in Academic libraries
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Postcard depicting Whitford Memorial Hall which housed the Milton College Library from 1906 to 1967. It is now a retail store.


 


 


 


 


 On May 15, 1982 a Wisconsin college library along with the college it was part of died. The death of the college was announced to the staff and faculty in the library. The doors of the library were closed and the building in which it was located and the collection of books were transferred to other entities. Staff were only able to retrieve their posessions under supervision.


The college was Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin.  The library was the the Shaw Memorial Library. Milton College dated back to the Milton Academy which was established in 1844, and was one of the oldest continuously operating colleges in Wisconsin. The Shaw Memorial Library building was completed in 1967. Prior to that time the library was located in Whitford Memorial Hall from 1906 to 1967, and before that in Main Hall. Both the Whitford Hall building and the Main Hall building are still in existence and are part of a historical district in Milton.


The Shaw Memorial Library building was acquired by and now houses the Milton Public Library. The library's collection was sold as a unit to a college in Milwaukee.


Links related to Milton College and its libraries:


Milton College Preservation Society
http://www.miltoncollege.org/


Library History
http://www.miltoncollege.org/hist07.htm


Whitford Memorial Hall
http://www.miltoncollege.org/hist09.htm


Newspaper article on closing of the college
http://www.gazetteextra.com/milton062407.asp


Whole Earth Review article by Barbara Rubin Hudson, Spring 1988


In Bed With Carnegie

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Saturday, January 03, 2009
in Carnegie libraries


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Finding alternative uses for Carnegie library buildings that have been vacated for newer and more functional facilities can be a challenge. The old Carnegie library in Ladysmith, Wisconsin was transformed into a very unusual alternative purpose. It is now the Carnegie Hall Bed & Breakfast. In a Google search, I was only able to find a couple of similar uses in the nation. The Carnegie library building in Sterling, Colorado is now the Old Library Inn. The Carnegie library building in Olean, New york is now the Old Library Restaurant in conjunctin with a bed and breakfast. Why not spend a night with Carnegie on your next vacation.


The public library in Ladysmith is now named the Rusk County Community Library. The library has done a good job of outlining its library history.


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  • Marion Howard says #
    The Carnegie building in Darlington is now the home of the LaFayette County Historical Society Museum and Archives. Marion Howard,...

Wisconsin Rapids Public Library History

Posted by Larry Nix
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in Library buildings


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This postcard shows the public library building for Grand Rapids (now Wisconsin Rapids). It was completed in 1892. The library shared the building with the city council and the fire department initially, but the library took over the entire building in 1900. The library was named the T. B. Scott Free Public Library at that time after T. B. Scott who donated $5,000 to the library. The library was located in this building until 1948.  


The folks at the McMillan Memorial Library in Wisconsin Rapids, formerly the T. B. Scott Free Public Library,  have done an especially good job of telling the library's story on their website. A recent addition to their website is a Google map of the previous locations of the library with photos and descriptions.  Also on the website is an online version of Centennial Story 1890-1990 : McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
by Alice McCaul Hayward.  There is a section devoted to the traveling libraries initiated by J. D. Witter in Wood County. Information about other Wisconsin traveling libraries can be found here. Finally there is a section that includes digitized newspaper articles that were written in 1921 about the early years of the library. A mural showing the history of the library is located near the entrance to the library. This mural is shown as part of the new Google map feature. 


Recent Comments Show all comments
  • Larry Nix says #
    I'm sorry, but the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is not in position to do the kind of research which you request. Our area of...
  • Antoine Nouens says #
    Dear Sir, Madam: Please assist me in regard of the following. I do research about US servicemen that were killed in WW 2 in and ne...

Beginnings of the UW-Milwaukee Libraries

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The UW-Milwaukee Libraries had their beginning as the Library of the State Normal School in Milwaukee which began in 1885. This postcard was mailed on July 12, 1926. At the time Delia Ovitz was the Librarian. She served in this capacity from 1901 to 1944. A list of all the directors of the UW-Milwaukee Libraries and their predecessors is here. In 1955, the state legislature approved a merger of Wisconsin State College, Milwaukee, and Milwaukee Extension Center of the University of Wisconsin to form the University of Wisconsin– Milwaukee. The new institution opened its doors in 1956. A timeline for the development of UW-Milwaukee can be found here.
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  • Sarah Kropp says #
    I was interested in seeing this article, as my great aunt was Dehlia Ovitz-- In addition, I am now a Library Media Specialist in M...

Carnegie Libraries in Superior and Hayward

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The postcard on the masthead for the WLHC website shows the building which Andrew Carnegie helped fund for Superior, Wisconsin. Beth Carpenter, the designer of the WLHC website, picked the postcard for the masthead, but I heartedly approve. I like it because it shows people around the library and a very neat vintage automobile that helps date the card. Unfortunately, the building is at risk. When the City of Superior was set to raze the building, a group of individuals banded together and were able to save the building at least temporarily. But to date they have been unable to find a permanent use for the building.  For more on the Superior Carnegie building click here.


 



carnegie-wi-hayward-1-72.jpgThe situation in Hayward, WI differs dramatically from the one in Superior. When the Hayward Public Library moved to a new building, the old Carnegie building was bought by a retailer that has done a fine job of restoring and preserving the building. A contributing factor to this more favorable outcome was the ideal location of the Carnegie building in a popular commercial district for tourists.  If you're in the Hayward area check it out. 


Stoughton's Historic Libraries

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pc-wi-stoughton-old-72.jpgThe City of Stoughton, Wisconsin has the distinction of having preserved two historic library buildings. An elaborate multi-purpose building which housed the public library in the basement was completed in 1901.  The stone signage on the building says "City Hall 1901 Library".  In addition to the City Hall and Library, the building contained a large city auditorium which became the City Hall Opera House.  The building has been restored and serves as an active cultural and entertainment venue.  More on the building's history can be found here.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


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Wanting a larger space for the public library, the City sought and received a Carnegie grant of $13,000 to help build a separate public library building which was dedicated in 1908. The building was designed by architects Claude and Starck.  A referendum was passed in 1988 to significantly expand the building. The wrap-around addition preserves the original building.  Recently, the interior of the Carnegie building was restored. More on the library's history can be found here.


These two buildings are on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.


Claude and Starck Libraries

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Library history buffs and those interested in architecture won't want to miss a program at the WLA Conference in Middleton on the Wisconsin Carnegie libraries designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Stark.  The program is entitled "The Shared Ideal: The Carnegie Libraries of Claude & Starck" and will take place in the La Crosse Room of the Marriott on Thursday, November 6 from 4:00 to 5:15.  The presenter will be Sheridan A. Glen, Board Member, Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts. The description of the program in the WLA Program reads as follows:


"The Madison architectural firm of Claude & Starck received commissions for 25 of 63 Carnegie libraries built in Wisconsin. This slide show, illustrated by postcards, will show the different styles—Classical, Sullivanesque, Prairie, Original, English Gothic, and Swiss Chalet—that Claude and Starck developed for Wisconsin libraries. The legacy of their beautiful libraries seems particularly meaningful, given the importance these libraries were to the development of small town America."


According to Kristin Visser in Frank Loyd Wright & the Prairie School in Wisconsin, the architectural partnership of Louis Claude and Edward Starck designed hundreds of buildings in Madison and the Midwest including over 40 library buildings.


The Columbus Public Library which was dedicated on November 1, 1912 was one of those library buildings.  According to Visser, "The Columbus library is unique among Claude and Starck designs in that it combines elembents of Prairie sbyle with English cottage decorative features."


The Columbus Public Library which is shown on the postcard below is on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.


 



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Mr. Carnegie's Portrait

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In 1935 to celebrate the centennial of Andrew Carnegie's birth, the Carnegie Corporation of New York donated a framed portrait of Andrew Carnegie to every library in America that had received a Carnegie grant for a library building. I don't know how many of the Carnegie portraits donated to Wisconsin's 63 public library buildings and two academic library buildings still exist, but some of the Carnegie buildings that are used as libraries and some that are used as historical societies still have them prominently displayed. Some that I am aware of include:  Columbus Public Library, Watertown Public Library, Berlin Public Library, Tomah Public Library, Lafayette County Historical Society (former Darlington Public Library), T. B. Scott Library (Merrill, WI), McIntosh Memorial Library (Viroqua, WI), Chippewa Falls Public Library, and the Waupun Heritage Museum (fomer Waupun Public Library).  If you know of others, let me know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


For more on Wisconsin's Carnegie libraries click here.


Wisconsin's First Library School

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in Postcards
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 The postcard above shows the second floor atrium of the Madison Public Library when it was located in the building financed by Andrew Carnegie, now razed.  It was here that the Wisconsin Library School, now the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was located from 1906 to 1938.  Carnegie gave additional funding to enable the library school to be located in the public library building. The message on the back of the postcard which was mailed in 1925 is from library school faculty member Winifred Davis to Mrs. N. A. Cushman, Librarian of the Reedsburg Public Library.  Davis invites Cushman to visit a library school exhibit at the University Exposition.

Library education in Wisconsin dates back to 1895 when the newly created Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC) sponsored the first Summer School of Library Economy.  The summer school was the idea of Frank Hutchins, the Commission's first Secretary.  The school was personally financed by library legislative champion Senator James H. Stout and was directed by Katharine Sharp, director of the Library School of the Armour Institute in Chicago.A full time Wisconsin Library School, still under the auspices of the WFLC, was founded in 1906 and housed on the second floor of the Madison Public Library. Mary Emogene Hazeltine was its first Perceptor or Principal. She served in this capacity until 1938. In 1938 administrative control of the library school was moved from the WFLC to the University of Wisconsin.

An excellent web history of SLIS is located here. A collection of digital images was created as part of the library school's centennial celebration in 2006.  Information on Tradition and Vision, a printed centennial history of SLIS, can be found here.

Hutchins, Stout, and Hazeltine will be among the first group of individuals inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame during the WLA Conference in Middleton in November.

Another Log Cabin Library

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in Library buildings

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On September 10, I posted an entry about the Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin which claims to be the oldest log cabin library in the state. That claim has been challenged by the Wabeno Public Library in Forest County which is also located in a log building. Lois Radloff, Director of the Wabeno Public Library, has provided the following information about the library building.



In 1993, the Wabeno Public Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The research for that designation was completed by the Nicolet National Forest Service in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.  The structure was completed by the Chicago Northwestern Railroad as its land office in 1895.  The application for designation on the National Register states "the Land Office turned the building over to the city of Wabeno in 1923 to be used as the library."  It has been in continual use as a library to this day.


Thanks to Lois for bringing this information to our attention.  We have included the Wabeno Public Library on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.


Postal Librariana Exhibit in Milwaukee

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in Exhibits


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The former Carnegie library building in Sheboygan, Wisconsin is pictured on the envelope above.  All but a portion of the Carnegie building has been razed. One way that communities in the first two decades of the 20th century sought to attract new businesses was through advertising on envelopes. These envelopes typically included pictures on the front of the envelope that depicted significant buildings and attractions in the community. Libraries are often one of the buildings being depicted on these envelopes.


The Sheboygan advertishing envelope is part of my postal librariana exhibit "The Evolution of the American Public Library".  The exhibit includes more than 300 postal and related artifacts.  The exhibit will be on display at Mt. Mary College in the Milwaukee area on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (Sept. 12-13). The exhibit is one of many which will be part of MILCOPEX, Milwaukee's annual national level stamp show. For information on the stamp show click here. For information on the exhibit click here.


 


 


Wisconsin's Oldest Log Cabin Library

Posted by Larry Nix
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The Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin claims to be Wisconsin's oldest log cabin library. Are there really more?  The library was founded in 1925 and has been in the same building throughout its history.  Located on County M in Cable, it's certainly worth a visit, so we've added it to the Library Heritage Trail page of the WLHC website. The Forest Lodge Library does something that every library should do.  On its website, it has an "About the Library" section and in this section it has a brief history of the library. Your library's heritage should be part of your marketing/public relations plan and the library's website is a great place to put it front and center.


Update: As it turns out there is another log cabin library in Wabeno, Wisconsin which also claims to be the oldest log cabin library. See the entry on the Wabeno Public Library here.  


Carnegie Was Also Academic

Posted by Larry Nix
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Andrew Carnegie is noted for his gifts for the construction of public library buildings. However, he also gave gifts to help build 108 academic libraries in the United States. In addition to the Carnegie grants for 63 public library buildings in Wisconsin, there were two academic institutions that received Carnegie grants for library buildings - Beloit College and Lawrence University. The Lawrence University Carnegie building was razed in 1974, but the Beloit College Carnegie building still survives. In 1962 it became home to the Pettibone Center for World Affairs. Check out the "Carnegie Libraries" link on the right to find out more about Carnegie library buildings in Wisconsin.


Postcard showing the Lawrence University Carnegie Library Building



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Postcard showing the Beloit College Carnegie Libray Building


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


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