The History of New York State
Editor, Dr. James Sullivan
Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam
In 1922 the Manufacturers' Association issued an analysis of the manufacturing census of 1919. According to this analysis the clothing industry came first in point of money value, and the number of people employed. In that year, 1919, 253,685 people, in 1,143 factories of various sizes, made clothing which was valued at $1,844,764,042. In other words, the clothing industry of New York gives employment to numbers which, in 1919, did not come far short of the total population of Denver, Colorado in 1921. In the same year, 1919, there were 5,006 factories for food products and tobacco, in which the services of 82,677 persons were required. The value of the products was $749,866,241, and they included bread and other bakery products such as biscuits, pies and cakes, cheese, prepared chocolate and cocoa, roasted and ground coffee, prepared spices, confectionery, pickles and preserves, fresh and cure meats, and other edibles needed for the food supply of a great city.
The third industry in importance is comprised of metals and metal products, which include babbit metal, brass and bronze and copper products, typewriters, cash registers, and calculating machines, cutlery and edge tools, electrical machinery, apparatus and supplies, all of which are manufactured in large quantities. Over twenty-eight per cent of the iron and steel shutters, window frames and doors made in the whole country are produced within the district of Greater New York. Steam fittings, steam and hot water apparatus, needles and pins, and sewing machines, are some of New York's varieties of manufacture. Shipbuilding is likewise an important New York industry.
Almost ninety-six per cent of the paper patterns used by the women of the United States and Canada, who sew at home are made in New York at a yearly value of $1,461,648. New York's lapidary work, which is ninety per cent of the total of that industry in the United States, was valued in 1919 at $27,032,138. Drugs and chemicals and paints and varnishes, combined, required 825 factories in which 26,379 persons were engaged, to produce their yearly output valued, in 1919, at $242,482,973. Wooden products included basket, rattan, and willow and wooden furniture, cooperage, billiard tables, and bowling alleys, refrigerators, wooden vessels, coffins and lead pencils. All these were valued at $141,282,753w during that year. The combined industries in wood require 1.005 factories and the time and knowledge of 30,821 persons. In these figures, however, the cabinet making for pianos, organs and phonographs is included. The making of these instruments alone is a large item, and amounts to over twenty-six per cent of the total number produced in the United States. The leather industry, which is very large, gives employment to 24,399 persons in 833 factories, where goods of various kinds from heavy leather belting to ladies' pocketbooks to the value of $123,280,584 are produced.
Printing and publishing needed the work of 81,454 people in 3,167 establishments. The work included books and job work, steel and cooper plate engraving, wood engraving and photo engraving, lithographing, newspapers and periodicals. Miscellaneous industries include textiles, notions, vehicles, stone, clay and glass products, dental goods, photographic materials, rubber tires and tubes, umbrellas, and canes, all of which keep 7,227 factories busy. The detailed account of the industries in New York City alone would show a variety and production outstripping some European countries.
When the first white man came to New York in 1609, it was not as the result of some pleasure seeking excursion. He was seeking for the northwest passage to the Indies and their wealth. In modern terms, Captain Hudson was "scouting" a new country as a commercial proposition to see what it had in the way of resources which could be used to the profit of all concerned, and the shortest way there. He sailed up the river which bears his name, met the natives and bought from them corn, fruits, and produce. When his discoveries were utilized, however, it was from the standpoint of raiment rather than food; the fur trade having the greater appeal as a quick means of making money. The choice was wise, as far as the immediate present was concerned. So long as the Indian would bring his peltries in to centers such as Fort orange, all that need be done was to transport the few men required in the business with the articles used for barter, and forward the shiploads of skins back to the Netherlands. As the fur trade began to extend farther form the river, and a greater number of men must be brought across the ocean to scour the back country for pelts, it was realized that food for the traders must be furnish on this side of the water, or the profits would disappear. Then, too, as the aborigine gave more and more of his time to trapping, which he enjoyed, and less to farming, which he left to the squaw, it became necessary to have food supplies to exchange with the Indian for his furs. Later, mention will be made of large stored supplies found in the "long houses" of the Iroquois by an expedition to the Genesee Valley during he Revolution, but it is not to be inferred from this that the native had taken heed to the example of the squirrel and always pout in cold storage enough to keep him in edibles through the winter. The Indian was improvident, he had rather roam the forest, hunt and trap, than till the soil and save what he grew. Food became an article of exchange just as truly as beads, pots, hatchets, rum and the like, and the Dutch traders had to have all of these or he could get no furs.
From Furs to Farming.--When it was realized that something must be done by way of furnishing food supplies by other means than shipping.
The first efforts were made to induce the permanent settlement of the New Netherland by folk who could and would cultivate the soil. Peter Minuit purchased "Manna hatta" Island in 1623 for a double dozen of dollars. Dutch farmers were with him, and the island was laid out in farms known as boweries. Long Island was of a topography and soil which was familiar to the Dutchman, and it, with Staten Island, soon blossomed with tilled areas. In succeeding years, under the direction of the Dutch West India Company, settlements of Dutch farmers were made at occasional places along the Hudson River as far as Albany. This company, appreciating that clearing, planting and harvesting were not the pleasantest of occupations, nor the more profitable, strictly forbade the new-comers, which it induced to migrate, to have anything to do with the fur trade. As the need for food increased, Walloons were brought over; many years later the Palatines. Still later the French Huguenots arrived; New Englanders left their harsh climate and stony fields and entered the State. It is remarkable how many different races had a part in the early development of agriculture in New York, and how many nationalities are still represented among it farmers. The like probably is not to be found in the history of any other State; New England, for example, was a closed English corporation until well after the Revolution. At that late period, New York had representatives in numbers from every great European Nation in its various settlements, some of which were confined almost entirely tot he citizens of a single nationality.
First Plantings.--The agriculture practiced by the Dutch in the first days of farming was the same crude sort they had known in their old homes, and availed less because it had to do with strange conditions--soils that were of a mixed character, different from the low lands of Holland--and forested b y such trees as never had come within their ken. Even the crops were of other kinds. "Corn" meant the small grains to the European agriculture; in New York the Indian maize was the easiest member of the grain family to grow. The aborigines grew beans, pumpkins, and squash, melons and roots, but the Dutch were slow to take up these novelties until they found that there was a greater surety of success with these than with their importations. They were also in great demand among the fur traders who had acquired a taste for them, and by the Indian who, however, well he knew how to grow them, was not averse to letting somebody else do it for him. The Dutchman was no fool, and he planted these Indian foods. He also brought all manner of seed and plants from the old country and tried them out, principally on the islands at the mouth of the Hudson where, because of its sea tempered climate and warm soil, most remarkable success was had. Neither was the Indian any fool; he tried the white man's plants, particularly the fruit trees; his country, in later years, became notable for its orchards.
Indian Aid.--The Dutch were fortunate incoming in friendly contact with a superior class of Native American, one which knew better than most semi-nomadic races how to till the soil. The Iroquois, in government, planning of their villages, and in their agricultural practices had reached a high state of development. Near their well protected towns, fields were cleared and cultivated, some of which were 200 acres in extent. There are accounts of some of these in the old records, such as those at Indian Castle, on the Mohawk; Onondaga Castle, south of Syracuse; Seneca Castle, near Geneva; and smaller ones near Elmira, Binghamton, and Peach Orchard Point, near Aurora. The story of Sullivan's Indian raid during the Revolution (1779) reads like a fairy tale with its accounts of orchards, corn and pumpkin fields, splendid villages, a land "flowing with milk and honey"--except that the Indian had no cows and the bee-trees were seldom bothered. General Sullivan reported that he destroyed eighteen villages, 150,00 bushels of corn and immense quantities of other provisions. All this was long after the Indian had been in contact with the whites, and had ceased to be on friendly relations with the settlers of New York. It is mentioned to that the Indians were capable farmers, and when the Dutch West India Company sent men to produce supplies from the land, there were already thoroughly good farmers on the pot ready to teach them, to give them acclimated plants, show them how to dry vegetables, smoke meat (the use of salt unknown, it would seem, to the Iroquois) and how to store what was grown. There was little excuse for failure on the part of the early Dutch agriculturists.
Nor did they fail as farmers, although throughout most of the history of the Dutch colony, little more was produced than was used at home. At times there were fears of famine, at others they wasted a deal of energy on experiments with tobacco. The temptations of the fur trade were always at their elbows. The discoveries of "false gold" on Staten Island and elsewhere led men to desert the fields. Nor did good-fellowship continue with the Indians, and the farms had to be confined to a district within reach of the traders' block-house. There were too many distractions about the new life and country to encourage the settling down to hard, steady work on the improvement of a plot of ground; and, as we shall see, the conditions of land tenure were a drawback to permanent agriculture. But the Dutch and the Walloons who settled around the future Albany, the Huguenots, and all the many nationalities who entered the Dutch colony were all sturdy, self-reliant folks, determined on making their home and fortune in New Netherland, and succeeded in doing so.
Dutch Introductions.--To the credit of the Dutch province must be given the introduction of most of the crops and agricultural industries which now are characteristic to the State. The grains that are now most planted are the one the first settlers planted, differing principally in the improvement made in their bearing qualities or food values, by selection or the importation of better sorts. The Dutch brought in fruit trees, and enjoyed many of the berries and fruits which now are to be found on our tables. He had a love for wine, and seeing how well the native grapes grew along the Hudson, sent to the motherland for the best variety of vines. That these proved unsuited to American conditions did not prevent the use of those found here, or the selections of seedlings, the result of natural crosses between the European and natives grapes. The first vineyards in the country were those of the Dutch along the Hudson River and on Long Island, and the oldest winery in the eastern part of America was built on the banks of the Hudson. The Hudson River section is the birthplace of American viticulture. In 1625 Peter Everson Huft, of Amsterdam, at his own risk, shipped three ship-loads of horses, cattle, swine and sheep, together with plows, seeds and the few agricultural implements used in that day; and this was at a time when there were not more than 200 people in the whole colony. Thus was laid the foundations of what is now the important phase of the present agriculture of the State, the cattle and dairy industry. It may be interesting to recall that New York was for nearly a century and a half the wool producing center of the Untied States. The founders of new Netherland deserve our thanks, for, with a few exceptions, they started the growing of the wheat, corn, oats, barley, rye, buckwheat, turnips, peas, beans, clover, and grasses, which are the staples of the agriculture of today; and we grown and use the same sort of livestock they introduced, with the possible exception of fowl.
The taking over of the colony by the English seems to have had little effect upon its agriculture except to increase the amounts of things produced to accord with the more numerous population. Too much of the British effort was spent in trying to reconcile the unreconcilable, to keep peace where there could be no peace, until revolution released their hold upon the country. If they made any notable contributions to agriculture it was along the line of improved methods of farming, and not by the introduction of new crops. One of the factors which prevented a greater development of the early agriculture grew out of the desire of wealthy men to own land which they would not sell. The craving for feudal estates peopled by a subservient tenantry is not one which encourages industry. The patroons and some early Englishmen, such as Sir William Johnson, secured enormous acreages, and id much to advance the knowledge and practice of farming, and they tried to persuade many to settle upon their lands. Governor Hunter was compelled to report: "I cannot say that the inhabitants increase here as in neighboring provinces where the purchase of land is easier." Of this land hunger and its effect something will be said later; it is enough for the present merely to mention this and other factors which held back the proper development of New Netherland farming. The free man wish to own land of his own.
To treat of the agricultural history of New York, chronologically would be difficult. It lacks the steady progress, period by period, which characterizes other industries. What was done in one locality seems to have affected the other but little. Advances were made by fits and starts; the advance being related to chance, local conditions, or some factor which did not affect the country at large. The great exception was the wheat furor of 1820 to 1830. The beginnings of definite tendencies in the planting of particular crops were not recognized or recorded. There were few attempts to gather complete State statistics of the principal industry until it has passed the zenith of its development; the earliest were those of 1845. When more than a half century ago manufacturing passed agriculture in the race for supremacy in the State, men began to wonder why this was, and to inquire into the conditions of farming as a whole. Even the long succession of reports, starting in 1791, with that of "The New York State Society for the Promotion of Agriculture" have more to do with the academic discussion of some farm problems than to the summing up of the progress made by agriculture or the giving something of its history. They read more like the tales of artists discussing their art, than farmers wrestling a living from the soil. Perhaps the very antiquity of their profession left them uninterested in some of the commoner phases of it. Agriculture, in New York State, like Topsy, seems never to have been born--it just grew.
There are a number of very definite factors in the rise of agriculture in the State which can be recognized or traced. There are the natural qualifications of the State for the making of a great farming section--topography--introducing the very necessary factor, transportation. Then the method of apportioning out the land and the opening it up for sale by which wave after wave the soil-tillers took possession of the State. The rise of certain crops to heights of production and the continuance of that rise to present times or, and what is more usual, the fall to lower levels, as the rural population lessened or the West excelled. When finally the governmental powers of New York became interested in agricultural conditions, both in the administration of affairs and through the educational institutions aid was given to the industry, such as profoundly affected its progress. This chapter, as it outlines the above mentioned factors will, it is hoped, give something of the history of agriculture at large in the State.
Natural Conditions.--If one will go to the State Museum in Albany and study the relief map of the State, which is one of the exhibits, one can grasp with a glance the topographical reasons for the remarkable development in agriculture made during the last three centuries than can be made clear by a volume of description. The rough wrinkled surface indicate without the need of surrounding boundaries, the seven distinct physiographic regions of New York, and will hint to the agriculturist the reasons why each district developed as it did. Even the names, given the seven, will inform the initiated of much. They are called: "The Hudson-Champlain," the long, rather narrow double valley which extends across the north, and south, the greatest length of the State; "The Mohawk Valley," wider and with better lands, which goes off towards the west from the Hudson at Troy; "The Great Lakes Plains," the lake-bottom area of a time when the water levels were much higher; "Long Island," a district distinct in soil and climate. "The Adirondack Mountains, "The Eastern Highlands", and "The Southern Plateau", which includes the Catskills.
Into the geology of New York we need not go, nor dwell on the far reaching effect of the glacial period on its topography and soils. The natural drainage system of the State had a most interesting and decided influence upon the settlement and the development of its agriculture. As will be noticed, it falls into three main divisions: the Atlantic through the Hudson, Delaware and Susquehanna rivers, the most important stream agriculturally; the St. Lawrence, including the Great Lakes; and the small streams of the far western section which flow eventually into the Mississippi. The most important tributary of the Hudson is the Mohawk. The better lands lay along the line of these drainage systems. Because of the primitive modes of transportation in early days, these rivers were explored first. When settlers sought for new territory it was along the rivers and the larger streams that they traveled. The Indian trails led among the streams or by the easiest levels to them. A map of the rivers and lakes of New York is a key to its history; to these natural features must be assigned the current of its trade, migration, agriculture and wealth.
The Water Trails.--As has been indicated, the Hudson Valley was peopled first, and from thence spread up the Mohawk River, but even a late as 1675 Schenectady was the most distant settlement in the province. The primitive method of travel was on foot or by water, the streams being preferred, particularly the Hudson and its tributaries. Where the streams became unnavigable or ended, the flatboats and the supplies were carried to the next water. Such a portage was one near the site of Rome, where by way of Wood Creek the voyager could pass into Oneida Lake, the Seneca and Oswego Rivers, the finger Lakes and Lake Ontario. The Lake George and Lake Champlain valleys gave access to the French territory of Canada. From Utica, the Black river led into Jefferson County. There were passes through the Catskills opening up the headwaters of the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers, on which it was possible to enter the region past Elmira and Hornell even to the Genesee River and valley. The Genesee River could in turn be followed to Belmont and beyond, where by a short trip overland the waters of the Allegheny could be entered and the Mississippi reached. Most of the routes were later traversed by canals and railroads, the two most important forces which affected the later agricultural industry of the Commonwealth.
The Roads.--These water trails were early paralleled by wagon roads as clearings multiplied and a double method of getting to one's neighbors, the mill and the market proved desirable. Other roads followed the Indian trails, and it is notable, even today, that the natives chose the levels beyond which the main highways now are built. The post road from Albany to New York, those in Clinton county, the one from Newburgh to the Delaware River, and the other Hudson section turnpikes were established very early. So, too, was the one only the Mohawk to Utica and thence to Syracuse, Auburn (1789), Geneva, and Canandaigua. Later it was thrust on to Buffalo (1791) with branches to Genesco and Lewiston. It was known by various names, but is now one of the best of the State roads. The Plank Road led from Utica into Jefferson County. In 1816 the famous "Ridge road" was opened along the high second border of Lake Ontario, following the ancient Iroquois trail, and soon had clustered along it the farms of the pioneers of this district. It was fortunate that New York was topographically so suited to the building of highways, and the development of its already created highways, the streams. To these more than nay other natural feature the Empire State owes it title. They mad of it a domain that could and must be developed as a whole and not as a mere adjunct to another colony. There were many setbacks given its settlement by the struggles with France and with England but when wars had ended, the farmlands, with their accessibility and proven worth, became the homes of thousands who had become acquainted with them on their marches while under arms.
The Owners of the Land and Its Settlement--The Patroons.--the manner in which the land of New York came into the possession of men profoundly affected it development. The colonization of New Netherland had hardly well begun before a system of patroonship came into force by which territory was apportioned by granted to those who would place on it a stated number of families. Sabastian Krol, one of two "consolers of the sick," who arrived in this country in 1629, went to Port Orange, from which he sent encouraging reports of the soil and climate of his district. These coming to the attention of Killian Van Rensselaer, a rich diamond merchant of Amsterdam, inspired him with the notion of creating for himself a vast estate in the new country. He instructed Krol to buy for him, from the red men, a tract of land on the west side of the Hudson near Port Orange. Meanwhile, he secured a charter from the West India Company with certain privileges and exemptions, and founded Rensselaerwyck (1630), an immense tract of 700,000 acres extending for twenty-five miles along the river and forty-five miles inland. Incidentally, he started a system of land tenure which led to long and sever agrarian troubles in the State. Van Rensselaer was the first of the patroons, but only one of a number, and virtually the only one to make good with his grant. Michael Pauw secured the whole of Staten Island and the land on which Jersey City is now built. The usual grant was eight miles on both shores of the Hudson River extending an indefinite length into the interior. The patroon was supposed to divide the land into farms, and aid in equipping the settlers with seeds, tools, stock and buildings. The rent was usually placed at fifty bushels of wheat or their equivalent, and the tenancy was for ten years, during which time the tenant was bound to the patroon his lord, court, judge and master. Fishing, hunting, the rights to establishing mills also belonged to the patroon. Van Rensselaer saw to the settlement of his estate, or part of it. He had families imported, appointed Wolfert Gerritsen and Gillis Hossett as overseer of rams and agent for the proprietor, respectively, and sent seeds and equipment. It is to be feared, however, that Van Rensselaer and his agents were more interested in the scouting for new acreages to add to already tremendous holdings, rather than in the development of what was had. Quite surely there was no great rush of settlers to these patroonships, for in 1647 there were only about 1,500 in the whole colony, the greater part of which had gathered about new Amsterdam or were busy in the fur and other trades.
Now were condition very different as to land tenure when the English held the province, for in the year 1684 Chancellor Livingston secured a tract of 160,240 acres in the region which are now Columbia and north Dutchess counties. Other grants were made in the years following, but the principle was not changed; the settler could only rent the land and very seldom buy it. Sir William Johnson was, next to Van Rensselaer, the largest landowner in the State, his holdings being in the Mohawk Valley. He brought about fifty Scotch-Irish families to his domain as a beginning and later introduced a number of Germans, but all as tenants. His day was not long, for during the Revolution his estate was confiscated, as were those of the Tories generally, and broken up and sold to residents of Albany, Schenectady and the Lower Mohawk Valley. From almost any standpoint the manner in which large areas of the State were kept from farmer ownership was probably the greatest single element in the retarded agricultural development of New York in the period preceding the Revolution.
The palatines.--It must not be overlooked that other than patroons and manorial efforts were made to bring pioneers into New York. During the reign of Queen Anne, the Palatines, protestants persecuted in the Rhine region of Germany, were aided to come to this country. Three thousand came in the first migration, and attempt was made to locate them on both sides of the Hudson River, "About a hundred miles up" in five villages on the lands belonging to Livingston and the royal holdings on the west side of the stream. They were supposed to make tar, pitch, and turpentine, and cultivate the land until they had paid the debt incurred by their passage over, and the cost of getting them settled and equipped. But trouble started at once. The pine tree of the Hudson was not the sort from which to make naval stores. They complained that the land was too stony and barren to be farmed; and that they were not given enough to eat or to wear; that their debts were so great that they could never earn enough to pay them. Finally they went on a strike, and troops were sent among them to cow them and force them to work. All sorts of methods were tried to make use of them, but failed. After three years the Indians having offered the Palatines land in Schoharie on easy terms they were released from their agreements and permitted to move. With the third migration, which brought the proportion of these Germans to the colony up to ten per cent of the population, they changed their tactics and became one of the best agricultural elements in the State. Palatine Bridge, German Flats, Stone Arabia are towns and names in the Mohawk Valley which preserve their memory. The fault lay not in the character of these people but in the tenant and contract labor schemes. Left to themselves they proved their virtues.
There were groups of several nations who filtered into the State prior to the Revolution, many of which were instrumental in bringing on that struggle. Almost without exception, they took naturally to farming and were Protestant in faith. In 1685, the Huguenots settled in Ulster County and even earlier had secured a foothold in Westchester. The Puritans soon spread from New England into the more southern parts of the State. The Welsh and the Irish were scattered everywhere, and even the Swedes and Jews were not unrepresented. The greater part of these were compelled to locate near the towns where land could be secured, or where the changes of tenentry were many, or "squat" in the back country where the dangers were many and the rewards were few. The Revolution settled some of the original land problems of the State, although the tenant question flared up repeatedly, and was not downed until 1846 when limits were set to leases, and all feudal tenures abolished.
Sale of Farm Lands to Companies.--The Revolution also brought its own land troubles, for at its end, when a State had been formed, New York found itself in the possession of a domain of more than 7,000,000 acres, and straightway began the same improvident administration that had characterized the West India Company. Great tracts of it were sold in sections so large as to exclude fair competitive bidding for it. Five and a half million acres were practically thrust into the hands of speculators at a time when the greatest number of individuals were seeking land which they wished to own and planned to cultivate. The land companies were formed to buy and sell, but sold on such terms as made the final possession of them by the person who improved them unlikely. These companies were little improvement on the patroons and the lords of the manors. But this these companies did accomplish--they opened a territory to settlement hitherto almost unknown, and the greatest influx of pioneers the State was ever to receive came during the period from 1790 to 1810, when speculators controlled vast acreages. Because of its bearing upon the agricultural development of New York brief mention must be made of these various sales, purchases, and governmental grants. First there were the lands to which a compromise of 1786 had given to Massachusetts the right of purchasing from the Indians. These comprised practically the whole of New York State west of Seneca lake with the exception of a strip a mile wide along the Niagara River. Massachusetts sold to Phelps and Gorham 6,000000 acres in the Genesee Valley for $1,000,000. Ailing to meet payments the partners surrendered the larger part but sold 1,200,000 acres to Robert Morris of Revolutionary fame. This tract included the present counties of Ontario, Yates, Stuben, and parts of Wayne, Monroe, Schuyler, Allegheny, Chemung and Livingston. Of the surrendered land the Holland Land Company secured about 3,600,000 acres, which included the present Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegheny, Wyoming, Erie, Genesee, Orleans and Niagara. The first land office of the Company, was opened at Batavia in 1801. In the company of such tremendous figures it is not necessary to introduce the "Boston Ten Towns" section (now in Broome and Tioga counties); the "Gore" and the "Compensation Lands," now Wayne.
In 1782 the Legislature set aside the "Military Lands," 1,800,000 acres (counties of Onondaga, Cortland, Cayuga, Tompkins, Seneca, Oswego, and Wayne in part). These were for distribution to the officers and soldiers of New York who had served in the Revolution. In the northeast corner of the State Alexander Macomb contracted for the largest grant ever made by New York to an individual, 3,693,755 acres, which included the most of Franklin, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis and Oswego counties. Samuel Ogden and Gouverneur Morris purchased some of this, as did David parish somewhat later. Such in outline is the story of the prodigal way in which the State got rid of its precious domain. Had it been retained and offered to actual settlers at a nominal price, not only would the State have been enriched, but a saner development of its area and agriculture might have ensued. The land companies and such individual owners as tried to divide and sell their tracts did build roads and do a number of things that scattered farmers cannot do. But they ruined many a deserving but unfortunate pioneer, discouraged others, and, as with patroonship, led, in the case of the Holland Company to rioting; the company's office and records at Mayville were burned in 1836.
The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927
This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library
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