Remembering Lorraine Duncan

Special Collections would like to recognize the passing of Vada “Lorraine” Duncan who has been a loyal and generous supporter of the local genealogy community. She passed away in January, just a bit shy of her 95th birthday.

Lorraine was a charter member of the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society, holding multiple offices and actively participating in the merger of the Society’s library into the collection here at DPL, ultimately donating much of her own genealogical library as well. She was named SCIGS Volunteer of the Year in 1992 for her involvement with projects at the Scott County Courthouse, unearthing and documenting tombstones in cemeteries throughout the county and faithfully volunteering in Special Collections. I can hear her big, booming voice with a hint of Missouri drawl beckoning one of us to come out to the desk to “HELP!” She had a no-nonsense style, demanded meticulous work, was opinionated and spoke her mind. You knew where you stood with Lorraine–if you didn’t, she would tell you!

The North Scott Press - Wednesday, May 21, 1975

The North Scott Press – Wednesday, May 21, 1975

Quad-City Times - Sunday, March 14, 1976

Quad-City Times – Sunday, March 14, 1976

Her longtime passion resulted in the establishment of an endowment in her name, The Lorraine Duncan Special Collections Endowment, providing permanent funding for preservation of and access to the local history records to which she dedicated so much of her time. We are appreciative for this, but more importantly, we feel deeply grateful to have been able to call her our friend.

We can only hope that she is having the time of her “life,” meeting and greeting all of those ancestors she so diligently searched for. Rest in peace, Lorraine. You and your legacy will be celebrated in our hearts each February.

(posted by Karen)

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Floods of 1916: The February flood of water and ice

One hundred years ago, the Quad City region went through a double flood year. Not something they felt like celebrating, we feel sure.

To make things a little more unpleasant; the first flood occurred from about January 30 through February 7, 1916. Unlike summer flooding, which is usually caused by rain or delayed snow melt, this winter flood was caused by ice jams.

Just the thought makes us feel chilled.

Several factors led to the first flood of 1916. The Davenport Daily Times reported the month of January 1916 had a wider range of weather than normal. The warmest day of the month was January 5 with a temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. By mid-January a cold snap left the area in below zero temperatures for several days. The end of the month rose to more normal temperatures of about freezing or a little above. (February 3, 1916. Pg. 4)

Precipitation also was unusual with 6.2 inches of snow falling during the month along with a 24 hour rainfall of 1.20 inches on January 20-21.

The late month rain plus the warmer weather led to a quicker than normal breakup of the ice covering the Mississippi between Bettendorf/Davenport and Buffalo. It quickly led to ice jams in the area which caused the water to rise to flood level while down river Muscatine had no flooding at all.

The first mention of flooding we found was in The Davenport Democrat and Leader on January 30, 1916. The article covered the flooding of Shantytown, also known as Fishertown, in western Davenport.

The article reported that the Mississippi River was already several feet above normal in this low-lying area. Large chunks of ice were floating near the homes along the river. The article reported that most of the bungalows in the area were built on “stilts” which elevated them above flood level. This allowed residents to stay in their homes even though the river and ice chunks flowed beneath them. Those with homes on the ground had been forced to leave as water (and ice) entered their residences.

By February 2nd The Davenport Daily Times was reporting the Mississippi River in our area was at flood stage of 15 feet. This was the highest the river had been since April 18, 1897. The lower areas of west Davenport were flooded, roads covered, water was nearing railroad tracks, and hundreds of residents had to leave their homes for higher (and warmer) ground. (Page 5)

The Davenport Commercial Club, representing the concerns of businesses in the area, were requesting Mayor Alfred C. Mueller speak with the United States Engineering Office located in Rock Island (another city suffering from the flooding) to arrange for the ice jams to be dynamited. Many businesses along the river were beginning to flood and the threat of damage by large chunks of ice was causing even greater concern. (The Davenport Democrat and Leader, February 2, 1916. Page 12)

The request to dynamite the ice jams was sent to Washington, D.C. that same day from the Engineering Office. Word was received the very next day that permission was granted to use dynamite as needed. By the time the news was received, a drop in the river level had been noted. By late afternoon, The Davenport Daily Times reported, the river at Davenport was measured at 13.8 feet. Dynamiting was put on hold. (The Davenport Daily Times, February 3, 1916. Page 7)

The river appeared to be stable for the next day or two until ice jams began to form between Bettendorf and Davenport. As the water level rose upriver, the Bettendorf Company was forced to close down as workers built an emergency sandbag wall to try to keep the water and ice out of the factory buildings. (The Davenport Daily Times, February 5, 1916. Page 5)

Once again families had to flee their homes along the river, but this time in Bettendorf, as the water level rose to flood stage. All this as the water level in Davenport continued to fall. Talk began again of dynamiting the ice jams.

Once again, dynamiting was postponed as the river began to slowly recede back into its banks. By February 7th the river, while still high, was below flood stage in both Davenport and Bettendorf.

By February 10th the Mississippi River seemed to be staying inside its banks in most areas. While some flooding still continued for a little while longer in west Davenport, the streetcars, which had not been able to run since the end of January in that portion of town, once again began to make runs to the Fishertown area. (The Davenport Daily Times, February 10, 1916. Page 7)

As the late winter/early spring weather held steady with no extremes things appeared to settle down once again along our section of the Mississippi River. Little did the residents of Fishertown and other low-lying areas know that they would face the rising river again in less than four months’ time.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Davenport and the Democratic “Reform Caucuses” of 1972

It seems you can’t swing a dead cat in Davenport prior to the start of the presidential primary season without hitting a hopeful come to drum up support among voters. Candidate visits, with their attendant media coverage, are such a common occurrence that here in Special Collections we do not even include them when saving newspaper articles about important local events.

It was not always the case, however, that candidates regularly appeared in places such the River Center, LeClaire Park, the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds — or even came to the state at all while campaigning for president. Up until 1972, Iowa’s system of caucusing to choose delegates for the national nominating conventions (in place since statehood in 1846) fell somewhere in the dull middle of the primary season. First-in-the-Nation status had not yet been conferred.

So what changed, and how did it play out here in Davenport and Scott County?

Following the the turmoil at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the national party created new rules to provide for better representation of the poor, minorities, women, and young voters among delegates to the national convention. For Iowa Democrats, adopting these rules meant that the long process of caucusing for county, district, and state delegates had to begin early in the election year. The first Democratic Party caucuses of 1972 were held in Iowa at 8:00pm on Monday evening, January 24th.

In Davenport on that day a wintry storm was expected. An editorial in the Times-Democrat made use of the snow metaphor to describe Iowa’s new role. The “first flurry of presidential politicking” would no longer be seen by New Hampshire primary voters, for “now the snowshoe is on the other foot. Iowans will have to break the trail.”

The editorial was skeptical that the “reform caucuses” would be a true “indication of grass-roots thinking” about presidential preference. Rather, they could provide “clues to the depth of the candidates’ organizational spadework.” According to an article by John McCormick, Senator George McGovern’s campaign showed signs of such disciplined digging in Scott County, enough to seriously challenge front-runner Senator Edmund Muskie in the area’s 57 Democratic precinct caucuses.

This was indeed the case, despite the forecast. The headline in the Times-Democrat on Tuesday,  January 25th read: “McGovern Strong In Scott Caucuses;” his backers received 81 delegate seats to Muskie’s 82. The McGovern for President forces were successful in Davenport: in addition to receiving a personal endorsement from Mayor Kathy Kirschbaum, the Senator from South Dakota won the majority of delegates from several precincts. Nationwide support for McGovern among the country’s youth was affirmed locally, including the election of 18-year-old St. Ambrose student Tom (Thom) Hart as Democratic committeeman for Ward 4, Precinct 4 (Hart remained active in politics, serving as mayor of Davenport*1986-1991; now Chair of the Scott County Democratic Party). The newspaper also reported that “two 17-year-old youths [favoring McGovern] who will observe their 18th birthdays before election day were elected alternate delegates to the county convention in Ward 8, Precinct 3,” and the McGovern backers expected to “take over” in Ward 3, Precinct 2, “where large numbers of Marycrest College students live,” in fact did so.13_1172461201

Credit for McGovern’s strong showing is widely attributed to the strategy put in place by his campaign manager, Gary Hart. The idea was to focus attention on the caucus states in the primaries, Iowa being the first. Early organization in Iowa by Jimmy Carter’s campaign four years later similarly resulted in a heightened national profile for the Democratic hopeful. 1976 was also the year the Iowa Republicans began to caucus at the same time as the Democrats: First in the Nation.

Do you remember the 1972 Democratic caucuses here in Scott County? Let us know!

(posted by Katie)


*The Special Collections Center holds papers from both Thom Hart and Kathy Kirschbaum’s time as mayor of Davenport.

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The Frank-Goldstone Wedding: One wife too many?

It sounds like the plot to a novel: a young, popular bride-to-be, her up-and-coming groom, a mystery woman, accusations of a hidden marriage, and a (briefly) cancelled wedding. For one Davenport bride, this was reality in January of 1910.

The bride-to-be was Rachel Goldstone. The 24-year-old lived with her parents in Davenport and by newspaper accounts was a well-known and popular young lady who worked as a clerk at the Fair Store in downtown Davenport.

Her groom was named Barney Kline Frank, aged 25 years. Mr. Frank originally lived in South Bend, Indiana where his father owned several successful pawn shops. Barney lived in Des Moines in January of 1910. He worked for Moses Levich who ran a pawn shop dealing in diamond jewelry, musical instruments, hats, and clothing. (Des Moines City Directory, 1910).

It is not known to us how the two met, but we do know they obtained a license on December 31, 1909 to be married in Scott County.

The wedding was set for Sunday, January 2, 1910. It was to be held at the Goldstone home at 605 Myrtle Street in Davenport. All seemed set for a lovely event until the Davenport Police Department received a call on Saturday, January 1, 1910 from a woman in Des Moines.

The woman identified herself to officers as Mrs. Kline. She inquired if a Barney Kline or Barney Kline Frank had obtained a marriage license. If he had, the marriage had to be stopped as Mrs. Kline was his legal wife.

The police officer informed her that if Mrs. Kline was in fact married to Mr. Barney Kline Frank, she needed to appear with her marriage license to stop the wedding. Mrs. Kline  appeared at the Davenport Police Station at midnight that night, having arrived in town by train from Des Moines.

She stated that Mr. Frank went by the name of Mr. Kline in Des Moines and that was the surname he used when they married.

One can only imagine the emotions that arose when Mr. Frank was summoned to the police station and informed of the woman’s accusation. Mrs. Kline did not have a license in hand, stating it had been lost in a trunk that her husband had stored after their marriage. (The Davenport Daily Times, January 3, 1910. Pg. 4)

The accusation was enough, though, for the wedding to be cancelled as the police tried to solve the mystery of the first Mrs. Kline.

Mrs. Kline was identified by Mr. Frank as an acquaintance named Ethel Palmer. Mr. Frank stated that while he knew the woman and had spent time with her, he had never married her or proposed marriage. He believed she was in love with him and this was her attempt to stop his marriage to Miss Goldstone. (The Daily Democrat, January 3, 1910. Pg. 3)

Mrs. Kline/Miss Palmer soon took a train back to Des Moines promising to return with evidence of her marriage. She claimed that she and Mr. Frank were married by a rabbi in Kansas City, Missouri in September, 1908. They had lived together for one year before he deserted her. (Davenport Daily Times, January 3, 1910. Pg. 6)

With no formal proof of a marriage, the Davenport Police did not press charges against Mr. Frank and the wedding was rescheduled for Tuesday, January 4th.

We are sure the wedding day was met with some apprehension by the bride-to-be with the worry that Miss Palmer might once again come to town. The papers stated that Miss Goldstone and her parents supported the story told to them by Mr. Frank.

At 8:00 p.m. that night, the wedding of Miss Goldstone and Mr. Frank took place at the bride’s house. The Davenport Daily Times ran a long story on the nuptials on January 5, 1910.

The bride wore a dress of pink silk moire trimmed in pearls with a long tulle veil. Miss Goldstone carried brides roses during the ceremony. The couple was attended by Rabbi Goldman of Rock Island and Rabbi Scuder of Davenport. They stood under a canopy of pink and white roses with greenery in a room filled with pink and white roses.

After the wedding, which took place in front of about 50 guests, there was a large wedding supper. The couple left the next day for a wedding trip to South Bend, Indiana to visit the groom’s family. Then they started a home together in Des Moines.

But Miss Palmer was not yet finished with Mr. Kline/Frank. She soon announced to the papers that either her wedding was real and he was now a bigamist, or he had taken advantage of her by holding a sham wedding.

Newspapers all across the country picked up the story. The last update we find locally is from January 8, 1910 when The Daily Times ran a picture of Miss Palmer stating she would pursue formal charges against Mr. Frank in Polk County, Iowa where they had both resided.

As no further information could be found on charges or a court case, we assume that Miss Palmer either decided not to proceed or the court would not hear the case. We are currently unable to trace what happened to Miss Palmer after January 1910. The little we did find out through indicates Miss Palmer was born Ethel Cromwell. Her mother married Andrew R. Palmer in 1897. Mr. Palmer owned a successful butcher shop in Des Moines in January of 1910.

As for Barney and Rachel Frank, they soon moved from Des Moines and headed to Omaha, Nebraska. They eventually moved to South Bend, Indiana where Mr. Frank owned several businesses. They had one daughter in 1912 and remained married until Mr. Frank passed away in 1950. Mrs. Frank remained widowed until her death in 1981.

We certainly hope Miss Palmer found as long-lasting and devoted a marriage.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Ida Johnson and United Neighbors, Inc. of Davenport

In celebration of the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Special Collections would like to feature Davenporter Ida Johnson, recipient of the 2001 Iowa Commission on the Status of African-Americans’ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award exactly 15 years ago tomorrow. 

Ida Johnson helps with shirt sales at United Neighbors Inc. in Davenport on Martin Luther King Day.

Ida Johnson helps with shirt sales at United Neighbors Inc. in Davenport on Martin Luther King Day, 2009. Image courtesy of the Quad-City Times.

Johnson is the recipient of numerous awards before and since, including two in the past year: the 2015 Athena Award honoring local women in leadership roles, and induction into the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame, “the most prestigious state-level honor volunteers can receive.”

Johnson is the founder and longtime Executive Director of United Neighbors, Inc., a community-based social service organization that has enriched the lives of the city’s residents for 43 years. From an initial desire to provide a safe place for neighborhood children to play and learn, Johnson increased the ambitions of her non-profit to offer after-school and summer programs for youth, street and park beautification projects, home-buying and home-repair assistance, senior programs, and a host of other free services aimed at improving the quality of life in Davenport’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

Johnson’s work at United Neighbors places her squarely in the local tradition of social reform efforts headed by women, such as Annie Wittenmyer, Clarissa Cook, Maria Purdy Peck, and Phebe Sudlow. And as an African-American woman, she joins Cecile Cooper as a Davenporter dedicated to providing equal opportunities for all.  As one of her many awards states, Ida Johnson is indeed “one of Iowa’s most valued history makers,”* and we wish her continued success in realizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream here in the Quad-Cities.

(posted by Katie)


*Ida Johnson was honored by the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids as a 2009 Iowa History Maker.

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Our “Special” Visitors in 2015

In 2015, genealogists and researchers from all over the country came to use the wonderful resources here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. We also had email and phone requests from all over the world!

To fill in the branches of their family trees, they found copies of birth, marriage and death records of their Scott County, Iowa ancestors. They came to research the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home, Colonel George Davenport and Bix Beiderbecke. They viewed newspaper articles on microfilm, information in our online databases, and images in our photograph collection. Their searches were made easier by the many indices prepared by our volunteers from the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society.

Last year we had visitors and research requests from 23 U.S. states, Canada and Israel. We had visitors from both Apple Valley, Minnesota and Apple Valley, California, and received research requests from both Troy, Missouri and Troy, Michigan!

Our furthest visitors came from Santa Cruz, California and Mukilteo, Washington; our furthest correspondents wrote from Tel Aviv, Israel, and Aiea, Hawaii.

Check out this map showing all of RSSC’s visitors for the year 2015, as recorded in our Guest Book. Pretty cool, huh?

(posted by Cristina)

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A Look Back: Snow removal in the 1940s

We thought we would take a look back this week at snow removal in Davenport as we wait to see what kind of winter awaits us in 2016.

The picture below shows the Davenport Public Works department hard at work removing snow in 1944.

Snow Removal in downtown Davenport 1944. (2008-20.65)

Snow Removal in downtown Davenport 1944. (2008-20.65)

We were able to research the addresses of the buildings behind the trucks to identify the location of the photograph. We learned the photo was taken not far from the Davenport Public Library Main Street branch.

The Davenport City Directory 1944 lists the Security Fire Insurance Company of Davenport as being at 217 West 4th Street. The Model Laundry was at 219-221 West 4th Street.

Today the buildings are gone and the site is a parking lot. The photo was most likely taken from across the street near the front of Davenport City Hall.

Just a reminder that the Davenport Public Library and Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center will be closed December 31, 2015 and January 1, 2016. We will reopen January 2, 2016.

We wish everyone a safe and happy New Year.

(posted by Amy D.)


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Closed for the Holidays

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center and the Davenport Public Library will be closed Thursday, December 24th and Friday, December 25th in honor of the Christmas holidays.

We will be re-open on Saturday December 26th from 9am – 5:30pm.

We would like to wish everyone Happy Holidays.

Conservatory in Vander Veer Park, Christmas Display, 1948; poinsettia and ferns. Grover C. von der Heyde photographs.

Conservatory in Vander Veer Park, Christmas Display, Dec 1948; poinsettia and ferns. Color slide. Grover C. von der Heyde photographs.


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A Christmas “Fowl” on West 6th Street

While the holiday season is known for its colorful lights and joyful atmosphere, many of us find the hustle and bustle to be a little stressful as well.

While we like to imagine that holidays past were more peaceful, we sometimes come across articles that remind us that our ancestors might have had a little holiday stress of their own.

We recently ran across an article in the Tri City Star from December 24, 1904 on page 2 that caught our attention.  Another article in the Davenport Democrat and Leader from December 25, 1904 on page 13 confirmed what we read in the first article.

This story took place on the west side of Davenport on the evening of December 23, 1904. Those involved lived in the area of St. Mary’s Catholic Church on W. 6th Street and had resided in the neighborhood for several years.

Mr. James Malone was a single man about 40 years old that year. He lived in the family home on West 7th Street and was employed at the Rock Island Arsenal.

Mr. Patrick Kennedy lived with his wife, Josephine, and their two daughters just down the street from St. Mary’s in a house on West 6th Street. Mr. Kennedy was about 47 years old in 1904. He was listed as a laborer in a search of local city directories. Mrs. Kennedy was a seamstress about 33 years old. Patrick and Josephine had been married for 18 years in 1904.

To walk from the Kennedy house to the Malone house would have been very easy to do. The Kennedy home was five houses from the corner of West 6th and Taylor Streets. If they walked north up Taylor Street one block and then turn right the Malone home was the fourth house on the left.

We have no idea of the relationship between the two families, but based on the incident that night it appears one family member was worried that a street length apart was not enough distance between the two houses.

According to the newspaper articles, Mr. Malone was walking home from work along West 6th Street when he passed the Kennedy house. Mr. Kennedy was entering his family’s yard carrying a goose that one assumes was for Christmas dinner.

Mr. Kennedy confronted Mr. Malone over the issue of his wife. Kennedy felt Malone was making “goo-goo eyes” (Tri City Star, Dec. 24, 1904) at his Josephine. Mr. Malone denied the accusation and protested the two were barely acquainted.

Patrick Kennedy appears to have not believed James Malone’s assertions as his next move was to begin beating Mr. Malone about the face with the Christmas goose before using his own fists, as the goose had been thoroughly tenderized. We imagine this caused a stir in the neighborhood.

The police were called and arrested Mr. Kennedy who was presented in court the following morning, Christmas Eve. Following the testimony of the two men, Mr. Kennedy was fined $5 and court costs. The total amount owed was $10.85. As Mr. Kennedy did not have the money to pay the court he was returned to jail for a time not specified in the papers.

We did further checking through U.S. Census records and local city directories. It appears that the families either moved past this incident, or at least managed to avoid each other, as neither moved from their respective houses for many years following the great goose incident.

We do not know if this incident was a long simmering feud or a sign of holiday stress. We are able to find one positive in this whole incident though; at least Mr. Kennedy was holding a fresh goose and not a frozen one that night!

Christmas Goose

Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 25, 1904. Pg. 13.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Riefe’s Restaurant: A sad goodbye


The Davenport Morning Democrat, December 24, 1960.

It was 66 years ago that a father and son team opened what would become a landmark restaurant in west Davenport.

Orval Riefe and his son, Del, opened Riefe’s Sno-Cone Drive-In at 1737 Fillmore Lane in 1948. Located between West Locust Street and West 17th Street, the seasonal drive-in operated April through October.

Over time, Sno-Cone was dropped from the restaurant’s name and it became Riefe’s Drive-In. By the late 1950s the Riefe family decided to enlarge their business.  On November 13, 1958 Orval Riefe applied for a permit to demolish an old building located at 1417 West Locust Street.*

The building removed was originally the Schreck and Schmidt Garage that had been built in 1924. After the building was removed, the grounds were cleared and left covered with 12″ of “good black dirt”.* The work was finished by early December that year.

It was about nine months later that Orval applied for another building permit. The August 7, 1959 permit describes the new building requested to be built by Riefe as a new restaurant building. It was to include a one story building along with a basement that was to operate as both a drive-in and restaurant. The building size was 30 x 64′ with an off-street parking lot for 40 cars. The building was finally completed in early June of 1960.

Two more additions would add on to the restaurant as the drive-in portion faded out with time.

The second addition permit was applied for in November 1967 with work being completed by February 1968.* This addition was marked on the permit record as a 1 story, 37 1/2 x 20′ dining room addition on the western section of the existing structure.

The final addition was permitted on August 10, 1976 as an “L” shape addition added onto the rear of the restaurant. This work was completed in the spring of 1977.*

As for the original Drive-In from 1948. The City of Davenport Building Permits show that Orval Riefe applied for a permit that was issued on December 22, 1959 to tear down the restaurant. Someone has written on the permit card that the job was completed by December 24, 1959.**

One interesting part of our research was that no further information was found about the original building at 1737 Fillmore Lane. No other building permit cards, no information from the City Directories, and no telephone book information besides the original phone number in 1948 was 7-5160. How the structure came to be built and when is unknown.

The advertisement at the top of this blog ran in the Davenport Morning Democrat on December 24, 1960. This was the first year in their new building and the Riefe family started a new tradition of closing for two weeks during the Christmas Holiday and giving their employees a paid vacation.

Every year since 1960 Riefe’s Restaurant has closed on December 23rd for two weeks.

In 2015, 55 years after starting this vacation tradition, Riefe’s will close on December 23rd forever.

Rick and Dan Riefe, grandsons and sons of original owners Orval and Del, along with all their employees will be missed.

If you are reading this before last closing on December 23rd, it is not to late to head down to Riefe’s for a breaded tenderloin sandwich or their other home style foods while sharing in the memories of a 66 year old Davenport tradition.

*Microfilm Roll 025. City of Davenport Building Permits. Inact. 1920-1980.

**Microfilm Roll 018. City of Davenport Building Permits. Inact. 1920-1980.

(posted by Amy D.)



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