After much delay, I return to this project. I have decided that since the next few states will encompass many great New Jersey parks as well as Coney Island, I am showcasing 12 cards instead of 10 for each installment, and omitting the sideshow performer section for now, though that will return later, perhaps as it’s own entity.

We pick up in New Hampshire, and it’s once and future main amusement park attraction, Canobie Lake Park. The coaster that can be seen in this aerial view, is the Yankee Cannonball, still going strong after 86 years. The coaster was built in 1930 for Lakewood Park in Waterbury Connecticut, and was relocated to Canobie Lake in 1936. It’s being re-tracked this off season, so 2016 should be a stellar year. The coaster makes an unusual dogleg around the still existing parking lot, though the rest of the park, the area between the parking lots and the lake, which was mostly trees in this 1960’s view, is far more developed now.

Canobie Lake Park Aerial View 1960's

This next card shows that racial insensitivity wasn’t limited to states south of the Mason-Dixon line, with this card showing the Little Black Sambo merry go round in Story Land in Glen, NH. I’ve been to Story Land, and the place is family run, and by really nice folks. In their defense, Little Black Sambo was a popular story from when it was first published in 1899 until the 1960’s, when it’s racial undertones were impossible to ignore any further. Obviously, the ride is no longer in the park.

Little Black Sambo Ride Story Land Glen, NH

We enter New Jersey through Asbury Park. This nice 1960’s chrome view shows many rides and attractions, including the small roller coaster in the foreground, with three small kiddie rides behind it. The red roofed building houses the carousel, and the white building down from the carousel contained the Skooter rides, more popularly known now as Dodgems or bumper cars. The track in the water to the left of the card marked the area where you could rent self propelled swan boats.

Overview of Kiddie Land Asbury Park, NJ

The majority of the first installment will take place in Atlantic City. Firstly is a great view entitled “There Is a Boy for Every Girl, Atlantic City, NJ”. It was mailed in 1911, and it is a great example of the swimwear worn at the beach at the time. Notice that none of the women are showing any skin except for their heads and hands.

Early 1900's bathing costumes in Atlantic City NJ

This next card show a sand sculptor working on a sculpture of a lion on the beach in front of George C. Tilyou’s Steeplechase Pier. Tilyou was also well known for his Steeplechase Park in Coney Island. This sign was also advertising The Funny Place, a funhouse. Note the Ferris Wheel in the back.

Sand sculptor working on a lion in front of Steeplechase Park

Next is a card from the 1930’s of the famous Elephant Hotel, Margate City, part of Atlantic City. Built in 1881 out of lumber covered in sheet metal, the elephant was used for many things, but not an actual hotel, that was in the building adjacent. It was moved in 1970, and still exists today, and is colloquially known as Lucy, which is the name given to her in 1902 by a member of the family that owned it.

The Elephant Hotel Margate City

This next card depicts a strange, generally no longer seen phenomenon, known as the Steel Pier diving horse show. These jockeys would go up the structure seen on the card, and then jump off of them into a pool. They were the most popular at the turn of the century, but began to lose popularity after World War II, due to concerns for the animals. Some of these attractions had the horses jumping close to sixty feet. This card was mailed in 1941, right when these shows were starting to die out almost everywhere.

Horse Diving at the Steel Pier Atlantic City NJ

But not apparently at The Steel Pier in Atlantic City, where this multi view card shows the Diving Horse, an assortment of rides, the popular rolling chairs ride, powered by this time, though human powered like a rickshaw, when first introduced in the 1800’s, and a billboard with ads for Zaberers, a restaurant, and Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. The publication date on this card is 1972, nearly the end of horse diving on the Steel Pier. The Steel Pier tried to re-introduce Diving Horses in 2012, but were quickly rebuffed by animal rights activists, and the general public, who’s taste for such spectacle has waned. The Magic Forest Theme Park in Lake George still has a diving horse, but he walks up the ramp, and dives nine feet into a pool 14 feet deep without a rider, or external encouragement.

Multi-Iamge view showing Diving Horse in 1972

These next three cards are my favorites from my Atlantic City collection. The first shows the Human Roulette Wheel, also known as a Joy Wheel in the UK. The person sitting on the absolute center of the device is the only one who is able to stay on the wheel as it starts to spin and gain speed. This shoots the people off the wheel, towards the rather ominous, and injury inducing short wall with metal fence, as well as previous riders. A sign in the center above the ride advertises ice cream cones for 5 cents.

Human Roulette Wheel at The Funny Place Steeplechase Pier Atlantic City NJ

Next is the Razzle Dazzle at The Funny Place, Steeplechase Park. This low tech ride used human power to get a large circular bench that people sat on, to rotate up, down and around a central pole. Oftentimes the folks who were providing the muscle would hang off the bench by their hands as it would go around. Click on the link below the picture to see a short 14 second video of one of these rides, known as The Hoop-La in Coney Island.

The Razzle Dazzle The Funny Place Steeplechase Pier Atlantic NJ

Hoop-La ride at Coney Island

Our last Atlantic City card is this great overview of Steeplechase Pier, showing a coffee shop front left, a frankfurter restaurant front right, which also made fruit smoothies, apparently, and the rides behind the sign, including the carousel, Whip ride, and Dodgem or bumper cars ride, as well as another circular flat ride.

Overview of the entrance to Steeplechase Pier, Atlantic City, NJ

Our last card this installment comes from Clementon Lake Park in Clementon NJ, near Camden. I have ridden this wooden coaster, known as The Jack Rabbit. It was a fun ride, though the hand stamp the park gave you was so thick, you had to be careful what you touched!

The Jack Rabbit roller coaster, coming down a hill at Clementon Park, Clementon, NJ

Come back next time for another installment on New jersey, including the late, lamented Palisades Park.

 

This month we finish our time in Massachusetts, and continue west to Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, and Nebraska. First in Massachusetts we stop in the mid-state industrial city of Worcester. Creating the eastern border between Worcester and Shrewsbury is Lake Quinsigamond. As with Whalom Park in Lunenberg, The White City in Worcester used the natural appeal of a large body of water to draw a crowd, and added amusements and other activities to get them to spend their money. Though all the postcards say the park is in Worcester, it actually was physically in the suburb of Shrewsbury. I’m certain this was to trade on the better known Worcester name. This first card is special as it was released prior to the parks opening in 1905. A note written on the front lets the recipient of the card know it will open in May. These pre-opening cards are nice examples of advertising for an upcoming attraction. At this point in history, you could only write an address on the back of the card, so it’s not unusual to see writing on the front of cards from this era.

White City Worcester Pre-Opening Card

This next view of The White City is a nice close up of riders enjoying their trip on the scenic railway. This type of card became popular during this era of the undivided back postcard. The space at the bottom took away from the image, but was popular anyway, as it gave senders a place to write a note without marring the view on the front of the card. The White City was another trolley park, and it suffered through the Great Depression, finally succumbing to economic realities in 1960. For those who know that area, The White City Shopping Center near the now defunct Spag’s was where this lost amusement park was located.

White City Worcester Scenic Railway

This next card is a wonderful view of riders enjoying a low energy ride on a figure eight roller coaster, circa 1910. This type of coaster is nearly extinct, only Leaps The Dips in Altoona, PA remains as an example. In this close view, you can see how there are wooden sides near the tracks. The ride is a series of figure eights, with small hills. Maximum speed on a ride like this was probably only about 10 MPH. It wasn’t until the underwheel, that locks the car to the track, was invented that coasters sped up to today’s extremes. When the car returns to the station, a brakeman in the station will pull a large lever, which squeezes the boards on the side against the car, slowing it to a stop. These are known as side friction roller coasters. Since these rides were so popular and so common, this exact card comes with different names of parks on it. This card is from Wenona Beach, Bay City, Michigan, but I have seen this same view with at least three other different park names displayed on it.


Side Friction Figure Eight Coaster @ Wenona Beach MI

This next view is from Electric City in Detroit, Michigan. Located adjacent to the bridge to Belle Isle, this trolley park was in operation from 1906 to 1928. This view shows an overview of the parks many rides, including the Trip Thru The Clouds roller coaster, a Traver circle swing, what looks like some sort of funhouse or other inside attraction, and behind that the top of the Ferris wheel. Also a drink stand can be seen.
Electric Park Detroit, MI
Electric Park Detroit, MI

This last view in Michigan is from the Ionia, Michigan Fair. This fair is one of the nation’s largest, and longest lasting. It started in 1856, and is going strong today in 2014. This view is from the 1960’s, and shows the plethora of rides offered. Starting in the front right, there is a Zipper, a ride I have never been able to go on, then a ride I’ve seen called the crazy buckets, basically a round car that you can rotate while going around in a circle. Urp! A Round-Up, Double Ferris Wheel, and other spin and pukes can also be seen. A line of tents probably held games of chance and human oddities displays.

Ionia Fair MI Not for the weak of stomach!

Not being an emetic fan, let’s move on from the Ionia Fair, and onto Minnesota. With many smaller states, I only have a few or even just one card. I have just a few Minnesota cards, and this one is the best, a great action view of the Cyclone roller coaster coming down a hill.

Excelsior Park Cyclone Roller Coaster Excelsior, MN

We move south to Missouri, and to Schifferdecker Electric Park. This short lived park was only in operation from 1909 through 1912. Many parks incorporated Electric into their name during this period to trade in on the new attraction of electricity. For many people an amusement park was the only place they had seen an incandescent light bulb! I have seen many of these cards for sale, so the park’s demise didn’t come around by lack of advertising materials. These rides must have been interesting. I would imagine they were a less than gentle ride through several switch backs, and curves.

Two Wacky Coasters at Schifferdecker Amusement Park Joplin, MO

This next view shows the extents that park operators went through to theme the entrances to their rides to entice those not yet on the ride, to pry a nickel or dime out of their pocket, and give this new mechanical marvel a go. This entrance is for the Scenic Railway roller coaster in Electric Park, Kansas City, Missouri, a short lived park open only from 1907 through 1925. I love the intricate lattice work, and beautiful architecture on these old rides, a far cry from the utilitarian nature of most queue lines today.

Scenic Railway Entrance at Electric Park, Kansas City, MO

Moving to Montana is a nice real photo view showing the roller coaster at Columbia Gardens in Butte, Montana. It is my only card from Montana, and I have not found a ton of information about the park’s past, short of it being a botanical attraction at points in its history.

Roller Coaster at Columbia Gardens, Butte, MT

Our last amusement card this month is a nice view of riders on a small roller coaster that overlooks the swimming area. They are enjoying their day at Peony Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Peony Park was a water attraction for most of its history, adding rides in the 1970’s. The park closed for good in 1994. This is also my only postcard from Nebraska.

On the Roller Coaster At Peony Park Omaha, NB

From the sideshow collection this month comes a self made freak. One who was born without deformity or other maladies. In today’s world of ubiquitous tattoos, it’s hard to believe an age when a heavily tattooed person was so unusual that you’d pay to see one. Certainly today there are many more people with facial tattoos, and many more with total body tattoos, but in the Great Omi’s day this was unheard of. Born in 1892, the Great Omi had several tattoos, but enlisted a tattoo artist to give him the distinctive zebra like black stripes on his face and upper body sometime between 1927 and 1934. He exhibited himself most of his life, until his death in 1969.

The Great Omi

Our last sideshow card is of Susi, the Alligator Skin girl. Susi was an unfortunate victim of an extreme case of psoriasis, which resulted in her skin having a scaly, lizard like appearance. There were several Alligator people throughout history. I have only seen this one view of Susi, and there is scant information on her available.

Susi The Alligator Skin Girl

 

Even though Revere Beach wasn’t a self contained park, and there were quite a few roller coasters situated up and down Revere Beach Boulevard, it was an amusement area, and there was no paucity of familiar and unfamiliar ride options vying for the patrons coins. No great amusement park is complete without a carousel, and here is a prime example. This ride, while called just Merry Go Round on the card, was actually Hurley’s Hurdlers. The Hurley family owned many amusements along the beach from the early days until the bitter end in the late 1960′s. This carousel may seem familiar to some, as it was purchased and moved to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1946.

Hurley's Hurdlers Carousel Revere Beach MA


I can find no exact information on what this next ride, The Whirlpool, did, but it seems like some sort of motorized bumper car ride. The cars are obviously built for collisions! Did the cars move randomly on their own power? Were they steered by the riders at all? Did the floor move to allow for movement of the cars? So many questions.

The Whirlpool Ride Revere Beach, MA


Next are two views of another popular ride of the time called The Virginia Reel. Though one prominent online roller coaster resource considers the Virginia Reel a roller coaster, I’m not sure I do. It does have a lift hill, where a wooden tub on wheels is pulled by a chain up to the top of the ride. Note the somewhat evil looking smiling faces on the front of the ride where the cars enter the tunnels. They are very evocative of Tilly, the smiling face used to advertise amusement parks in both New Jersey, and Coney Island.

The Virginia Reel Revere Beach, MA


After the car is released on top, it makes it’s way downwards through switchbacks, all the time spinning. Sometimes gently, sometimes wildly depending on the weight distribution in the car. Towards the end, the switchbacks become swooping downward turns that end in a series of tunnels as you make your way back to the loading platform. Revere Beach had two reels, as a second was built after the fiery demise of the first. It thrilled riders until the mid sixties, before succumbing to fire itself. Is it a roller coaster? I guess you can make the argument that it is, especially if you consider modern spinning mad mouse type coasters, but I still don’t consider it a roller coaster.

Going Up The Virginia Reel Revere Beach, MA


In my estimation, no classic amusement park is complete without a fun house. Unfortunately, the walk through fun house , with it’s moving staircases, rolling barrels, drop seats, and other attractions are sadly a thing of the past. Now, one has to be content with the dark ride, another great attraction, but nothing like the walk through funhouse. Another common theme was to have a figural frontage for the ride. This 1940’s era linen card shows the amazing facade of the Bluebeard’s Castle walk through funhouse.

Bluebeard's Castle Fun House Revere Beach, MA


Amusement ride owners were too smart to let any amount of spare room go unused. Here is a card of Neptune’s Frolic, a dark ride located underneath the Virginia Reel. You can see the faux stalactites lining the ceiling of the ride’s loading platform. Theming the area to make it more attractive and enticing is not a new phenomenon. It was actually more important at the time this ride existed as patrons paid for each ride they took. You had to look/be spectacular to separate the patron from their cash, and to stand out from the other attractions.

Neptune's Frolic, located under The Virginia Reel Revere Beach, MA


This next card is an advertising card, and it is one of my favorites. Why the devil don’t you come and see me? The devil in fact was an attraction in the Darkness and Dawn attraction. By the ingenious use of still photos, flashing lights, smoke and mirrors effects and darkness, riders were transported to hell to witness what would be in store for them should they take the path of sin. According to one reference I have, riders entered the attraction and first entered the Cabaret Du Mort where refreshments were served. Next they took elevators to the depths of Hades, and were accosted by demons, and visions of hell, before riding a boat across the river Styx to meet the Devil himself! My only wish is that there would be no ink bleed on this great image, but I’ve never found another copy to upgrade to.

The Darkness And Dawn Attraction Advertising Card Revere Beach, MA


In talking to some folks in their 20’s recently I discovered that many of them had never heard of The Round-Up, a popular ride throughout the early 80’s, but most prevalent in the 60’s and 70’s. Much like the smaller vertical Rotor rides, this starts at parallel to the ground, but tilts up to almost 90 degrees before releasing you from it’s grip. The type of thing I could barely ever ride in my youth, forget about now.

The Round-Up Ride 1960's Revere Beach, MA


This next chrome card shows the famous Hot Rod Cars at Hurley’s Kiddie Park. We’ve all ridden those cars on track that can only go side to side a few inches, so how much fun must these have been, with the wide open track, and multiple cars? Also note the Ferris Wheel in back, and Bump A Cars on right.

Hurley's Famous Hot Rod Cars Revere Beach, MA


This next card is one of three I have on the particular subject of Diving Horse shows. This card shows either King or Queen diving from the raised platform into a pool from the Revere Beach Carnival of 1906. This was a popular attraction at the turn of the century. I have separate cards for both King and Queen as well. Since this was right on the beach apparently, I’m not 100% sure how a fee was collected from the abundant crowd. I do know that this is a fairly common card, so perhaps they survived on postcard sales.

Diving Horses Attraction Revere Beach Carnival 1906


Though there were many amusements on Revere Beach, it is important to remember it’s history as the first public beach in America. Incorporated as a public beach in 1895, Revere Beach is a crescent shaped beach nearly three miles long. At first the beach was used for walking and entertainment, as public bathing didn’t come into vogue until after the turn of the 20th century.

While there are many views of the beach and bathers from the early days through the 1960’s available, my favorites are the older views depicting the changing of beach wear, especially women’s beach wear. As mores and attitudes towards the public exhibition of one’s body changed over time, bathing suits became more and more revealing. One example is this hilarious view showing, as it states on the card, “One of the Beef Trust”, showing a somewhat manly looking young lass in her one piece bathing dress enjoying the cool Atlantic waters.

One Of The Beef Trust Revere Beach, MA


Making fun of women’s weight is not a modern phenomena, unfortunately, as this card showing a rather rotund woman in a full length bathing outfit attests. I have seen this same card used for several different beaches, only the name of the beach on the top of the card changes from place to place. Given her getup, one could see that this particular woman would never worry about getting a sunburn. She would, however need a dip in the ocean to cool off, since bathing suits of this vintage were often made from wool!

It Floats! Revere Beach, MA


This next view shows several comely lasses frolicking on the beach. Though this card is from the 1920’s, it’s obvious that the standards of what was acceptable beach wear had changed to allow shorter bathing suits with bare arms. I do like how the woman on the right has scandalously abandoned her hat, unlike the other ladies. Even in their enlightened day, these young women would be appalled to see the mini bikinis, thongs, and other revealing bathing suits of the modern age. I also love the comment printed on the card about skimming cash from the out of town visitors, a common theme on turn of the century beachfront postcards from all over the world.

Girls Playing Leap Frog on Revere Beach, MA 1920's


This last bathing card is my favorite one, because it perfectly illustrates the difference in morals from the time this card was posted in 1916 until today. It shows a police officer (or some other civil servant) actually measuring the length of the young ladies bathing outfit to ensure that it was long enough to comply with local obscenity laws. As the card states, this young woman’s suit was “Within The Law”.

Within The Law on the beach at Revere Beach, MA


The final card from Revere Beach is another of my favorites. It echoes a common theme in cards from the turn of the century. This card was posted in 1909, and it shows “Revere Beach In The Future”. As almost every forward looking card from this period, it shows personal flying machines, but since it was sent only 6 years after the Wright Brothers flight, it doesn’t show a plane or flying car, but rather a personal blimp. There are also two hot air balloons and another, larger dirigible. I also love the elevated subway train hanging below the tracks, the trolley car (which was contemporary to the time), and the automobile which looks exactly like cars did then. I also find it funny that the artist was forward thinking enough to include flying machines, but not enough to show fashion changing at all in the foreseeable future.

Revere Beach, MA in the future.


This concludes the four part series on Revere Beach, Massachusetts. Next time, I will return to presenting ten cards from different parks, and two sideshow performer cards. I hope that I’ve given you an adequate overview of the beauty and majesty of Revere Beach, MA what was known at the time as the Coney Island of New England, and the first public beach in America.

 

Midway Postcard Gallery Volume 2 August 2010

This months gallery will be five more postcard images (called “views” in the field) from some long gone, and some still extant California amusement parks, and another sideshow performer postcard.

The first view is of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, CA. It is a chrome postcard from the 1960’s, and shows the awesome Giant Dipper roller coaster to the left, a Paratrooper ride in action on the right, and many park patrons enjoying their day. This particular coaster was built in 1924 by Arthur Looff. Arthur’s father Charles Looff was responsible for many of the greatest carousels ever constructed in the US. This classic ride can be seen in many movies, most notably in the opening helicopter shot of the great vampire film The Lost Boys, but also in The Sting II, Sudden Impact, and Dangerous Minds. The Giant Dipper continues to thrill riders to this day, and is one of my top ten favorite wooden roller coasters in the country.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Next is a 1940’s linen card showing the amusement park at the Great Highway and Ocean Beach in San Francisco, CA. Those familiar with San Francisco will recognize the windmills at upper left which are still standing. They mark the end of what is now known as Golden Gate Park. Along the left side of the card you can see two roller coasters as well as many other amusement buildings holding rides and attractions. This view is taken from the Cliff House looking South.

San Francisco Amusement Area

Our third card is a view of the Dragon Gorge scenic railway at Ocean Park, Venice CA. Scenic railways were the predecessors of the modern roller coaster. Generally they were milder rides with small hills, and often had the cars pass by murals of various scenes inside the ride structure. To the left of the entrance you can see some coaster track. The very large dragons which guard the entrance of the scenic railway were made of wire, wood, paper mache and plaster, with a waterproof paint laid over to protect them from the elements. Judging by when these rides were popular, and by the dress of the people in the view, this card dates from sometime in the 1920’s.

Dragon Gorge Ocean Park CA[

Up next is a card from Venice Beach, Venice CA. It shows the park’s lagoon (also probably used as a landing spot for a boat ride similar to a modern Flume ride), as well as several attractions along the lagoon’s shore. These include from left to right two unmarked buildings (perhaps game booths or shops), followed by The Chicken Farm (game? Exhibit?), The Temple of Mirth, a walk through fun house, and finally Darkness and Dawn, an attraction which was more of a show that illustrated what happened to those vice ridden souls who dared tempt fate, and eternal damnation. This is an early divided back postcard dating from the 1910-1925 era.

Lagoon and Attractions Venice CA

Our last amusement park view is also from Venice Beach, Venice CA, and is a nice close-up of a ride that was once ubiquitous in amusement parks across the country, the Virginia Reel. As you can see, the Virginia Reel was a tub-like ride which held 4-6 patrons. Using a lift mechanism much like a modern roller coaster, the car was transported to the top of the ride (the unadorned track at the top of this view), and then careened down a series of spirals to the bottom, all the while spinning wildly as it descended. Quite a dizzying sensation, to be sure! I work with an older fellow who rode a Virginia Reel in his youth, and he proclaimed it one of the best rides ever, and confirmed it’s emetic potential!

Virginia Reel Venice CA

Lastly is another view from my collection of freak, or sideshow performer cards. This linen card from the 1940’s shows a family of little people known as the Doll Family (though their real surname was Earle). The Doll family consisted of (clockwise from left) Tiny, Harry, Daisy, and Grace. Harry and Grace may be familiar to movie fans as two of the stars of Tod Brownings 1932 masterpiece Freaks. Harry played the rich midget whom the trapeze artist marries with the intention of killing for his money, and Grace played his previous love interest, spurned for the trapeze artist. If you’ve not seen this film, I recommend it highly, as it is still powerful today with it’s frank depiction of the daily lives of many of the greatest sideshow performers of all time including Johnny Eck, the King of the Freaks, and Frances O‘Connor, the Living Venus De Milo.

Doll Family

GLOSSARY:
The type of card will often help one judge its age, as postcard manufacture went through several phases and changes over the years. The terms below will be what I use to describe cards ( or views), and will inform you what time frame those cards are from.

Private Mailing Card: 1850’s-1900 Marked on the back as such, only an address allowed on the back.

Undivided Back: 1900-1907 Most cards printed in Germany, address only on back of card, front may have space for a message. All cards after 1907 are divided back, meaning both a message and an address may be written on the back

Early Chrome: Mostly German printed cards that have printing to the edges of a photographic image that’s been colored or a drawn image. 1900-1918.

White Border Cards: Mostly American printed starting 1918-1930’s. Generally inferiorly printed, especially the earlier ones, as American printing presses had not yet caught up with the superior German ones. Obviously World War 1 ended German dominance of the then very lucrative postcard printing market.

Linen Cards: These cards are characterized by a thin layer of linen that is glued over the paper prior to printing, giving them a non-smooth surface to the touch. 1940-s-early1950’s.

Chrome Cards: Postcards like you are used to today. Printed photographs on glossy stock. These date from the mid 1950’s until present, and are almost 100% of all new postcards made since the 1970’s. Chrome cards prior to the 1970’s are called Standard Size, which indicates the pre-1970’s postcard size of 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches. Almost all postcards printed since the 1970’s have been 4 inches by 6 inches or what is known as Continental Size. Since I do not actively collect continental sized postcards, all my images are of standard sized cards.

Real Photo Postcard RPPC: This is a card which is an actual photograph printed on actual photographic paper, generally made in limited numbers by small independent photographers. They may date from 1900 until present day, and can be dated approximately by the markings on the back. Alternatively, the may have the information burned into the negative. They are the rarest and most sought after postcards by collectors.

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