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HomeContentsThemes > Death, post-mortem, memorial portraiture and memento mori


399.01   Nineteenth century post-mortem and memento mori
399.02   Post-mortem and memento mori photographs of babies and children
399.03   Daguerreotypes: Post-mortem portraits
Carte de visites
399.04   Carte de visites: Post-mortem portraits
399.05   Carte de visites: Memorial portraits
Cabinet cards
399.06   Cabinet cards: Post-mortem portraits
399.07   Cabinet cards: Memorial portraits
Spirit photography
399.08   Abraham Lincoln as a returning spirit
Marketing death
399.09   Marketing: Chase's Daguerreotype Rooms, Boston (1846)
399.10   Marketing: John A. Whipple, 96 Washington St., Boston (1848)
399.11   Marketing: J.V.R. Schuyler, Ithaca, NY (1853)
399.12   Marketing: Root's Daguerrean Gallery (1853)
399.13   Combining a daguerreotype with a miniature to create a painting (1848)
399.14   Elliott and Fry during the First World War - portraits often gain a mournful interest (1917)
399.15   Southworth and Hawes: Mount Auburn Cemetery
Notable deaths
399.16   François Aubert: The execution of Emperor Maximillian
Photographs on graves
399.17   Photograph of the deceased on a grave at a cemetery in Yokohama, Japan (1881)
This theme includes example sections and will be revised and added to as we proceed. Suggestions for additions, improvements and the correction of factual errors are always appreciated. 
Status: Collect > Document > Analyse > Improve
399.01   Documentary >  Nineteenth century post-mortem and memento mori 
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Floral tributes and death 
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Photojewelry and death 
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Mourning clothing 
Memorial cards 
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Spiritual forms and death 
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Photographing the dead as a business opportunity 
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   Documentary Death 
View exhibition 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
399.02   Documentary >  Post-mortem and memento mori photographs of babies and children 
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399.03   Documentary >  Daguerreotypes: Post-mortem portraits 
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Improvements in medicine and changing attitudes to death have meant that it is largely hidden from contemporary society as something to be shunned and hidden from. At times when religious certainty was more prevalent death was accepted as a natural passage to the "farther shore". In America it was not unusual for the recently departed to be photographed[1] and for mourning clothing and jewelry incorporating photographs to be worn.[2] Contemporary adverts for photographic studios stated that they could photograph the dead as a remembrance to the living.[3] 
Carte de visites 
399.04   Documentary >  Carte de visites: Post-mortem portraits 
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399.05   Documentary >  Carte de visites: Memorial portraits 
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Cabinet cards 
399.06   Documentary >  Cabinet cards: Post-mortem portraits 
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399.07   Documentary >  Cabinet cards: Memorial portraits 
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Spirit photography 
399.08   Documentary >  Abraham Lincoln as a returning spirit 
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Marketing death 
399.09   Documentary >  Marketing: Chase's Daguerreotype Rooms, Boston (1846) 
From the earliest days of photography studios used death as a part of their marketing - for example The Journal of Health and Monthly Miscellany in 1846 stated that part of the reason for having a portrait taken was as a memory aid when the subject was "absent, or dead" and a visit to Mr. Chase's Daguerreotype Rooms would get around this:
Daguerreotype. In our advertising columns may be seen the card of Mr. Chase's Daguerreotype Rooms. We have visited these rooms, and examined his specimens. We were much pleased with every thing connected with this establishment. We advise all our readers, who wish to see themselves in nature's glass, or who have friends desirous of possessing their exact "image and superscription" when they may be absent, or dead, to visit Mr. Chase's rooms and he will do the work for them. He will do it well.[4]
399.10   Documentary >  Marketing: John A. Whipple, 96 Washington St., Boston (1848) 
The The Stranger's Guide in the City of Boston (1848) includes a piece on the daguerreotypes of John A. Whipple, one of the few daguerrreotypists with a biography[5], and includes the sentence "How many there are who would pay fifty times the usual price of such pictures, could they but obtain the full likeness of their families, now scattered or thinned by death." Here we see that remembrance was a part of marketing images.
Daguerreotype Miniatures
John A. Whipple
96 Washington St.
Mr. Whipple stands among the foremost of living Daguerreotype Artists. He receives the patronage of the most distinguished citizens in our community, having established his reputation for accuracy, neatness and vividness of Daguerreotype Portraiture. A visit to his rooms at 96 Washington Street, will satisfy any one as to the amount of his business, as well as to the class of his patrons. He excels particularly in taking groups, and those who visited the last exhibition of the Mechanics' Fair, will remember well those rare specimens in this way, that were executed at the rooms of Mr. Whipple.
Mr. Whipple has a copy of a picture taken by him of the Governor and Council. It embellishes his studio and attracts the admiration of all who visit it. He has much of the patronage of the three learned professions from all parts of New England, and many families are indebted to his unsurpassable skill for the most choice and natural pictures of themselves, joined in a domestic circle. The happy effect of assemblies thus naturally pictured forth, it is impossible to describe. And such memorials are assuredly invaluable, growing more and more so, as absence, or death, or tune, alters or diminishes the domestic circle. We commend the practice of having such pictures taken. How many there are who would pay fifty times the usual price of such pictures, could they but obtain the full likeness of their families, now scattered or thinned by death.
In all the branches of the Daguerreotype profession, Mr. Whipple is prominently distinguished. He performs all that is possible in the art, and his terms are very moderate.[6]
399.11   Documentary >  Marketing: J.V.R. Schuyler, Ithaca, NY (1853) 
In his 1853 volume Ithaca as it was and Ithaca as it is: with thoughts suggestive of the future Hermon Camp Goodwin gave a description of the Daguerrean Rooms of Mr. J. V. R. Schuyler.[7] The last paragraph of the piece emphasizes the role of photography in the preservation of the loving memories of those lost.
In the Daguerrean Rooms of Mr. J. V. R. Schuyler, we recently noticed many familiar and well known features true types of the originals- His rooms are large and airy, well furnished, and decorated with splendid pictures Having both sky and side-lights, and all other facilities known to be favorable, to the art, we do not wonder at his furnishing daguerreotypes shadowing forth the smile of beauty and the glance of manhood's " living fire." Mr. Schuyler is an accomplished artist. He keeps a rich assortment of stock, among which may be seen some beautiful pearl cases, fit to hold within their embrace the portrait of the fairest and loveliest in the land
His gallery is well supported, and the affable and courteous proprietor is realizing a handsome compensation for his labor and time. He has had much experience in his profession, and his natural taste and skill will doubtless continue to render his gallery as popular as his pictures are strikingly perfect.
The value of a perfect likeness should not be estimated by dollars and cents. Our father, mother, brother and sister those have all, all departed. What would we not give for a type which would recall every feature of the lost and loved. There sits the mother mourning over the loss of her only child- it was a beautiful little gem of lovelines. But it is now cold; and inanimate. The pulse has ceased to beat, the eyes are closed forever, the lips, though slightly parted, will never again move in uttering words of childish simplicity. There is the marble brow and flaxen Hair, but that brow has been touched by death, and made livid, cold; and that glossy hair will no more hang in tasteful ringlets about that neck of alabaster. The little child is dead. O, what treasure would purchase of the mother the last, the only daguerreotype of her loved, lost-child ? She would not part with it for crowns or golden gems.[8]
399.12   Documentary >  Marketing: Root's Daguerrean Gallery (1853) 
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Marcus Aurelius Root (1808-1888) was one of the leading photographers of Philadelphia and had started with daguerreotypes. Later in life he would write the influential book The Camera and the Pencil, or the Heliographic Art (1864)[9] but in 1853 he advertised himself in the The Christian Parlor Magazine with a piece of poetry that is maudlin to say the least.
Root's Daguerrean Gallery. There is no place like this in New York for perfect daguerreotypes. Here is displayed a multitude of the most beautiful speeimens of this art, showing the perfection of Mr. Root's mode of taking them. This gentleman has placed in the Crystal Palace some forty or fifty pieces, which attract great attention, and will probably secure the first prize. Any one who has seen them cannot but admire the sharpness of the figure, the perfection of the drapery, and especially the remarkably clear and natural expression of the eye one of the most difficult attainments in this art. No higher testimony can be given to the exellence of Mr. Root's daguerreotypes than the constant press of business on his hands, his rooms being thronged every day with visitors. He succeeds admirably in taking the likenesses of children. And what mother would not love to preserve the infant features of her children to look upon in after years, especially should they be taken away by death. We have rarely seen a more beautiful illustration of this than in the following:
Sweet child, that angel face must fade,
   As years shall come and go.
For time doth ever mar the fair
   And bright of all below.
But thy fond mother's jealous care
   Hath robbed the yawning tomb,
And by the might of art, hath fixed
   For e'er thy youthful bloom.
Within her sacred shrine there hangs
   In all its infant grace,
On Root's unequaled, perfect plate,
   Her darling's glorious face.
Then, mother of the blooming child,
   Trust not the fleeting hours,
But, as this mother did by hers,
   Do thou at once by yours.
Then, should the sudden dart of death
   Your loved one call away,
You'd bless the hint by which you had
   The picture done to day,
   By Root, 363 Broadway.[10]
399.13   Documentary >  Combining a daguerreotype with a miniature to create a painting (1848) 
In these extracts taken from a letter from Daniel Webster to his son Mr. Fletcher Webster (March 12, 1848) it includes a desire to add an image of Edward Webster on died in the 25th January 1848 to a portrait:
Mr. Healy is painting a portrait from the daguerreotype; I have not seen it, but it is thought to be very good. I have been meditating upon something which I wish should be thought of. Edward was ten years old when I made the Hayne speech in the Senate. Why should not Mr. Healy make a picture of him, as of that age, from the daguerreotype, and from Miss Goodrich's little miniature, and place him at my feet? He was then no older than Daniel is now.
See Julia, and tell her what I propose about Edward's picture.[11]
399.14   Documentary >  Elliott and Fry during the First World War - portraits often gain a mournful interest (1917) 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
On the 21 July 1917 an advert for the London photographic studio of Elliott and Fry was published in the Illustrated London News:
In these days, when portraits often gain a mournful interest which makes them priceless to the bereaved friends of the subjects, Messrs. Elliott and Fry, the well-known photographers, of 55-56, Baker Street, W., have issued an illustrated little price list of various forms of their artistic productions, which they will send to applicants. Crayon and pastel drawings are included in the list.[12]
This advert appeared during the height of the First World War (1914-1918 and only eight days before the start of The Third Battle of Ypres which continued until the 6th November. This battle alone had 310,000 casualties in the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and a further 260,000 German casualties.[13] Given the immense slaughter one can only imagination that the need for photographs of "the fallen" would be immense. 
399.15   Documentary >  Southworth and Hawes: Mount Auburn Cemetery 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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Southworth & Hawes[14] photographed Mount Auburn Cemetery[15] at Cambridge and Watertown in Massachusetts which had been founded in 1831. The rural cemetery has several photographic connections as it is the last resting place for Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) who was the first person to use the term "stereograph" in an 1859 article, and Harold 'Doc' Edgerton (1903-1990) a pioneer of scientific photography and strobe lighting. 
Notable deaths 
399.16   Documentary >  François Aubert: The execution of Emperor Maximillian 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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The French artist Édouard Manet painted a number of oil paintings depicting the execution by firing squad of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico (1832-1867) and two of his generals in Santiago de Querétaro.[16] Maximilian became Emperor following French intervention in Mexico but had continual opposition and France withdrew its forces leaving him in a precarious political position that led to his execution on 19 June 1867.[17]
French photographer François Aubert was working in Mexico at the time and photographed the execution in a gruesome series of photographs that caused consternation in Europe at the time. The death of royalty was, not surprisingly, a sensitive topic in monarchies. Aubert photographed the firing squad, the blood stained shirt full of bullet holes, and the Emperor in his coffin.
In a curatorial comment for the photograph of Emperor Maximilian's Firing Squad at the Metropolitan Museum of Art says:
Legend maintains that Maximilian paid each of the seven executors shown here one ounce of gold not to shoot him in the head; he wanted, the story asserts, his mother to see his face one last time when he was in his coffin.[18]
The collection of the Getty Research Institute includes a photograph of an artistic rendering of the Empress Carlota mourning Emperor Maximilian (1867-1868).[19][20] 
Photographs on graves 
399.17   Documentary >  Photograph of the deceased on a grave at a cemetery in Yokohama, Japan (1881) 
On a visit to a cemetery in Japan Captain S.H. Jones-Parry noted that a photograph had been set into a headstone a practise still widely found today:
Next day I took advantage of seeing the gate open to stroll into the cemetery, a sweet, sunny spot, very well looked after. Pretty shrubs are dotted about here and there; and many a sorrowing relative will be cheered by knowing that their dear ones, buried in this distant land, are still cared for, and that their graves are hidden by lovely camellias, cherry and almond trees. The tombs in some cases were very quaint. On the headstone of one I noticed half an orange and a saucer, put, as I afterwards learnt, by some faithful Japanese or Chinese servant, a simple token of love and regard for the little one whose body rested beneath; it was the one touch of nature, and made me feel so sad and choky that I had to turn away. I love that nigger, as they stupidly call these men, for that act. Another had a bouquet with a Christmas card attached, placed reverently on the grassy mound. Another foreign one had a ghastly photograph of the deceased lying surrounded by his sorrowing friends and active servants; it was let into the headstone, and covered with glass, but was much faded by the action of the atmosphere. I confess I liked the bouquet and pretty flowers better. Some English and American tombs were handsome. Altogether I was pleasantly impressed with this spot, and felt that I should not mind being buried there myself.[21]

  1. Λ Stanley Burns, 1990, Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America, (Twelvetrees Press); Stanley B. Burns & Elizabeth Burns, 2002, Sleeping Beauty II: Grief, Bereavement and the Family in Memorial Photography, American & European Traditions, (New York: Burns Archive Press); Stanley Burns, 2011, Sleeping Beauty III: Memorial Photography: The Children, (Burns Press) 
  2. Λ Mary Brett, 2006, Fashionable Mourning Jewelry, Clothing & Customs, (Schiffer Publishing) 
  3. Λ 1853, "Root's Daguerrean Gallery", The Christian Parlor Magazine, vol. 10, p. 379 
  4. Λ The Journal of Health and Monthly Miscellany (Boston), Volume 1, no. 2, February 1, 1846, p. 60 
  5. Λ Sally Pierce, 1988, Whipple And Black: Commercial Photographers in Boston, (Boston Athenaeum) 
  6. Λ 1848, The Stranger's Guide in the City of Boston (Boston: Andrews & Co.), p. 31 
  7. Λ According to Craig's Daguerreian Registry James V.R. Schuyler was listed as a daguerreian in Ithaca, N.Y., 1859 
  8. Λ Hermon Camp Goodwin, 1853, Ithaca as it was and Ithaca as it is: with thoughts suggestive of the future, (Ithaca, N.Y.: Andrus, Gauntlett & Company), pp. 40-41 
  9. Λ M.A. Root, 1864, The Camera and the Pencil, or the Heliographic Art, (Philadelphia: M.A. Root, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, New York: D. Appleton) 
  10. Λ 1853, "Root's Daguerrean Gallery", The Christian Parlor Magazine, vol. 10, p. 379 
  11. Λ This letter is published in George Ticknor Curtis, 1870, Life of Daniel Webster (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1870), vol. II, ch. XXXIV, p. 322. 
  12. Λ Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, July 21, 1917; p. 88, Issue 4083. 
  13. Λ The Third Battle of Ypres, 1917 - First World War
    (Accessed: 6 September 2013) 
  14. Λ Charles LeRoy Moore, 1975, Two Partners in Boston: The Careers and Daguerreian Artistry of Albert Southworth and Josiah Hawes, (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms); Robert Sobieszek & Odette M. Appel, 1976, The Spirit of Fact: The Daguerreotypes of Southworth and Hawes, 1843–1862, (Boston: David R. Godine) ; Grant Romer & Brian Wallis (eds.), 2005, Young America: The Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes, (New York: International Center of Photography; Rochester, NY: George Eastman House; Göttingen, Germany: Steidl) 
  15. Λ Mount Auburn Cemetery
    (Accessed: 6 August 2013) 
  16. Λ The Execution of Emperor Maximilian - Wikipedia
    (Accessed: 23 August 2013)
    There are three oil paintings in different collections: Kunsthalle in Mannheim (Germany), National Gallery (London, UK) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (USA) 
  17. Λ 2006, Manet and the Execution of Maximilian, (New York: Museum of Modern Art) 
  18. Λ François Aubert [1867], [Emperor Maximilian's Firing Squad], Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005, Accession Number: 2005.100.580.1 
  19. Λ Jägern (after Karl von Stur), 1867-1868, [Empress Carlota mourning Emperor Maximilian], photograph, GRI Digital Collections, Object Number: 93.R.20 
  20. Λ Carlota of Mexico, born Charlotte of Belgium (Marie Charlotte Amélie Augustine Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine; 7 June 1840 - 19 January 1927), empress consort of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, the former Archduke of Austria. 
  21. Λ Captain S.H. Jones-Parry, 1881, My Journey Round the World via Ceylon, New Zealand, Australia, Torres Straits, China, Japan, and the United States, Two Volumes (London: Hurst and Blackett), vol. II, pp. 28-29


HomeContents > Further research

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General reading 
Brett, Mary, 2006, Fashionable Mourning Jewelry, Clothing & Customs, (Schiffer Publishing) isbn-10: 0764324462 isbn-13: 978-0764324468 [Δ
Brown, Amanda, 2012, ‘The Way She Looked the Day She Died: Vernacular Photography, Memory, & Death‘, in Proceedings of the Art of Death & Dying Symposium, No. 1 [Δ
Burns, Stanley, 1990, Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America, (Twelvetrees Press) isbn-10: 0942642325 isbn-13: 978-0942642322 [Δ
Burns, Stanley, 2011, Sleeping Beauty III: Memorial Photography: The Children, (Burns Press) isbn-13: 978-1936002047 [Δ
Burns, Stanley B, & Burns, Elizabeth, 2002, Sleeping Beauty II: Grief, Bereavement and the Family in Memorial Photography, American & European Traditions, (New York: Burns Archive Press) [Δ
Meinwald, Dan, 1990, ‘Memento Mori: Death in Nineteenth Century Photography‘, CMP Bulletin, California Museum of Photography, vol. 9, no. 4 [Δ
Mord, Jack, 2011, Beyond the Dark Veil: Postmortem and Memorial Photography from The Thanatos Archive, (The Thanatos Archive) isbn-10: 0615518141 isbn-13: 978-0615518145 [Δ
Pike, Martha V. & Armstrong, Janice Gray, 1980, A Time to Mourn: Expressions of Grief in Nineteenth Century America, (Stoney Brook, NY: The Museums at Stony Brook) isbn-10: 0295963255 isbn-13: 978-0295963259 [Δ
Ruby, Jay, 1984, July-September, ‘Post-mortem Photography in America‘, History of Photography, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 201-222 [Δ
Ruby, Jay, 1985, Secure the Shadow: Death and photography in America, (The MIT Press) isbn-10: 0262181649 isbn-13: 978-0262181648 [Δ
Readings on, or by, individual photographers 
William H. Mumler 
Kaplan, Louis, 2008, The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer, (University of Minnesota Press) isbn-13: 978-0816651566 [Δ
Nadar, Félix, 1982, Le Paris Souterrain de Félix Nadar 1861, (Caisse nationale des monuments historiques et des sites) isbn-10: 2858220557 isbn-13: 9782858220557 [Δ
Marcus Aurelius Root 
1853, ‘Root's Daguerrean Gallery‘, The Christian Parlor Magazine, vol. 10, p. 379 [Δ
If you feel this list is missing a significant book or article please let me know - Alan - 

HomeContentsPhotographers > Photographers worth investigating

Freddy Alborta • William H. Mumler  (1832-1884) • Leo Touchet  (1939-)
HomeThemesDocumentarySociety > Death, post-mortem, memorial portraiture and memento mori 
A wider gazeRelated topics 
Photographers who died in action 
Spirit photography and paranormal manifestations 

HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Death, post-mortem, memorial portraiture and memento mori

Please submit suggestions for Online Exhibitions that will enhance this theme.
Alan -

Thumbnail19th Century Post-mortem photography and memento mori 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
Improved (November 12, 2010) Warning: These images may be considered disturbing and I would recommend that you do not view this exhibition if you are of a sensitive disposition.
ThumbnailAbrupt or violent death 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
Released (November 12, 2010) Warning: These images may be considered disturbing and I would recommend that you do not view this exhibition if you are of a sensitive disposition.
ThumbnailGhosts, apparitions, angels, spiritual visitations and views of the future 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
Released (October 25, 2008)
ThumbnailWalter Schels: Life before Death 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
Released (May 22, 2008)

HomeVisual indexes > Death, post-mortem, memorial portraiture and memento mori

Please submit suggestions for Visual Indexes to enhance this theme.
Alan -

ThumbnailAbraham Lincoln: Spirit form 
ThumbnailA. Denis & Cie.: Tintype in a carte de visite mount: A woman in mourning 
ThumbnailRichard Leach Maddox: Obituary 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailRosaline Holmes Harrison (Mrs. S. Decatur Harrison) with dead baby 
ThumbnailSouthworth & Hawes: Mount Auburn Cemetery 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailCarl Durheim - Unidentied photographer - Man Ray 
ThumbnailMargaret Bourke-White - Lee Miller 
   Thematic Connections 
ThumbnailNorthfield Raid 
ThumbnailTriangle Shirtwaist Fire 
ThumbnailAlbumen prints: Themes: Post-mortem 
ThumbnailAmbrotypes: Themes: Post-mortem 
ThumbnailCabinet cards: Themes: Post-mortem 
ThumbnailCarte de visites: Themes: Post-mortem 
ThumbnailDaguerreotypes: Themes: Post-mortem 
ThumbnailSalt prints: Themes: Post-mortem 
ThumbnailTintypes: Themes: Post-mortem 
   Still thinking about these... 
Thumbnail19th Century Post-mortem photography and memento mori 
ThumbnailAbraham Lincoln: Lincoln's Horse "Old Bob" 
ThumbnailAbraham Lincoln: Mourning 
ThumbnailMemorial portraits - not quite the same 
Refreshed: 09 September 2014, 05:16
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