Welcome to My Red Cape. Long ago in another time my husband Jack and I lived in a little old red house. It was the stuff of dreams to us for the few years that we were there. I live there still a number of hours every day in imagination, with old dolls and paintings and fabrics and feather trees. I draw inspiration and happiness from the memories of that space in time and share some of it here with friends who remember how to step with Alice through the looking glass and take delight in whimsies and antiquities.

For more than sixty years I have studied, collected, repaired, and bought and sold antique dolls. They have been back ground music in my life at every stage, sometimes louder, sometimes subdued, but always there with me. To see only the posts about dolls on this blog, click the banner on the right titled Dolls for My Red Cape. Keep clicking “Older Posts” to see more. Some of the posts featuring rug hooking are gathered under the banner For Cathy. From time to time items are offered for sale under the banner “O’Neill’s Antiques” which was our shop name for many years. ~Edyth O’Neill

Saturday, August 25, 2007









Memories....

Change happens! As many of you know, we have moved from our farm after fire destroyed our beloved 1768 Connecticut cape in May of 2005. We live in the town of Fredericksburg now in a new stone house which is starkly white inside and out, floor to ceiling. The antique business and the hooked rug pattern business are gone along with the farm and the goats and the wild flowers. The challenge is to adapt and reconfigure our way of living, as we work to restore our smoke darkened furniture and the fire ravaged doll collection which I had assembled and loved in a lifetime of collecting early dolls. It is not Stuff we lost in the fire, but rather our way of life. Comparable changes happen to many people in the river of life, think Katrina!! This web log is a journal of this adventure, and is dedicated to the many friends who have helped us in this journey and whom we are privileged to help along also! Some of the entries are copies of letters to friends.




Fall 2005


Starting over in a new house. After several months of searching for a house that felt warm and cozy and welcoming to us, we compromised mightily and purchased a new one in a pretty subdivision of Fredericksburg. After living with 240 year old New England pine floors and wide chestnut beams overhead in the farmhouse, white tile and white carpet along with arches and coffered ceilings seemed hard to accept. At the same time we knew we were lucky to have a good safe house, again comparing ourselves to the people who lost all in Katrina. Our situation is lovely compared to theirs.


Jack and our daughter Beth and son in law Gary worked six weeks to simplify the new house, sheet rocking to level the arches. taking out extreme green countertops in favor of slate gray, removing Italian grape wallpaper, and replacing ceiling fans in the major rooms with candle style chandeliers from Moses Willard. A flying saucer or something like one covered two large florescent fixtures in the kitchen. It was removed and neat can lighting went in. Gary put dimmers on most of the lighting, including the over counter lights in the kitchen, saying "Mom now you have candle light". Changing nearly all of the light fixtures made an unimaginable difference through out.


We moved no walls, nor made any major changes which might compromise the integrity of the house. Rather we are warming the interior with our collection of earth colored stoneware and red ware, the pewter and delft and newly upholstered furniture, crewel over some of the windows, and the beginnings of a library of books again. It is a comfortable house, with large spaces and ample seating for people and activities. There are guitars and a banjo standing in a corner, and big speakers to sound our favorite records.


Here is a note to my brother during those weeks: Never become involved with wall paper if it can be at all avoided! We are doing the small bathroom this weekend and just suffering death in there. Beth and Gary will return for another shift of it soon and we should be done by tonight. Gary does the plumbing and unplumbing and Jack and Beth hang and cry and I cut paper and match and measure and ring my hands when it all goes wrong and won't stick to the wall which is the worst of it. Someday we will laugh about all this, just not yet!!! Have a great day. Love, Sis

The first thing our friend Helen said when she saw our new house was "Of course you will replace the front door!!!" It was leaded glass and very fancy and we replaced it with a paneled door painted the green of the house trim color.


Jack has made a space for his woodworking tools and is beginning to do woodwork again. I have set up an easel by a north window so I can start back to painting, and have a space for sewing and for rug wool. The early furniture is shocked by its new surroundings, but the crewel swags help over the windows. The new house is surprised at us too, it never expected hooked rugs and baskets of wool and a large spinning wheel, but now has them.

Greatly missed are the twenty oriental rugs lost. We are thrilled to have a large one now for the living room and three small ones to scatter about and cover some of the white floor.


December 2005 Our Christmas Letter

Dear Friends, Now that this year is ending, I look back on many changes for Jack and myself. Among the most heart warming of this year’s events was the tremendous response from friends and family after fire struck our home. Your loving support made the difference. Jack says he does not know how we would have made it through the worst days without the people who came to help us. Thank you also, who wrote to us after the fire with your messages of comfort. At two times this year we suffered serious computer glitches and lost all email and addresses and each time some of your warm letters went into space and were never answered. Many of the letters in snail mail were read and enjoyed but some also went without the full response I would like to have given them. Please forgive me when the correspondence is more that I can manage, I love to get them and do read over each several times. Email is always the easiest for me. The new address is joneill816@austin.rr.com
Life has many storms, and Jack and I have endured our personal one this year. We think of the thousands of hurricane victims and their suffering and continuing displacement, and give thanks that we were not taken out of our very community. Now that we have moved into a clean new house in town, we are unpacking and sorting papers and books and trying to put our lives in order again. The heartbreak of loosing our old house is still fresh but we will hold dear the memory of those years in the little red cape for all of our lives. We are grateful to have a house again, and plan to fill it with grandchildren and friends and music and books and paintings and pumpkin pies and happy memories so that soon the new one will be home to us. This week there is a Christmas wreath on the front door and sleigh bells on the inside so that they sound each time the door is opened. Let us all open the door of our hearts to the ringing of bells and the possibility of joy in the new year.


June 17, 2006 Always a Doll In My Arms

Dear Friends, As many of you know I am spending much of my time and effort these days restoring some of the antique dolls that were in the fire. For the most part, we cut away the sodden and blackened bodies with their ruined clothing which was once so dear, and discarded everything but the doll heads. A very few of the bodies we elected to keep, and one of those was taken apart today to make a pattern for a replacement. The doll is a glass eyed papier mache' head made by Andreas Voit, and dates not later than 1850, and is more often thought to date about 1840. When I purchased it, it had it's original body and clothing except shoes. The doll's torso was made of homespun sheeting, either sturdy cotton or linen, hand stitched and nicely made. The legs went out with last week's trash and the arms are long gone. Now I wonder what I may have discarded! Jack carried the stained body to his work bench to take it apart and save me from breathing the dusty cotton lint. He parted the seams and eased the pieces apart and called me to come see! The stuffing which had been used included only a very little cotton at the top or neck portion. The rest was filled with ravelings and bits of fabric deemed too insignificant to use in any other way. There on the work table lay all the tightly wadded little bits of fabric, most of them cotton prints, hidden away inside the doll's body for all these years, a century and a half! What a treasure trove of little patterns, we think more than 30 different ones, we have not counted. A few pieces of fabric are large enough to do some tiny thing with. A large part of the joy in loving antique things, is discovery and study. I plan next to take some of the fabric bits and shake them in a jar of luke warm water and see if they can survive a gentle washing and pressing. It will be fun to lay them out and photograph them to share with friends who enjoy fabrics as I do! A collection like this with a pretty firm cut off date could help to date quilts and clothing from the first part of the 19th century. Such a collection also shows what the Voit doll itself might properly wear. The doll was originally clothed in a wonderful little boy's dress. Penny Scroggins came this evening to see our treasure. An overwhelming preponderance are brown prints. There are bits of red and some of the lovely old blue greens.



June 25,2006


Dear Friends, Yesterday I finished washing and ironing all the little bits of very soiled fabric from the doll stuffing. Some of them just melted away. The rest are in a nice stack of ironed pieces, ready to arrange and photograph and perhaps find someway to make a tiny patchwork quilt of them to keep them as a little collection, I am not really skilled in making such a thing. Many are near rotten. Perhaps putting them in a framed collage would work?
Another question presents itself. Where was the doll body made and stuffed with all of this? Would I be finding the same type of mix if it were1845 Germany, France or the United States? Voit was a German doll maker, of so called French Papier Mache's??!! I must look at a map and read and learn more. Some of the heads were sent just as heads, and then made into dolls here in this country. Yard work calls me, before the sun gets too hot, Best, Edyth
Background on the dolls:
My mother had a life long interest in all dolls, including antique dolls. She won several blue ribbons at the state fair with her doll houses. My earliest childhood photos always showed me with a doll in my arms. I began collecting old dolls at the age of 23, I am past 75 now. My love then as now was the early ones, papier mache's being the main interest, with china heads close behind. . Over the years. dolls came and went, graded up or repaired and passed on, usually never more than 40 in the house at a time. In 1980 my husband (Jack, as Irish John's are often called.) and I moved to Fredericksburg Texas where we built a nice business as antique dealers and craftspeople. I continued to add old paper mache's, loving especially the Voits. We brought a 1768 New England cape house to Texas in 1992 and erected it on our little farm. There was a great little room under the eves upstairs for the dolls. Each doll was a little personality or character to us, and was named and treasured. Jack built great doll furniture for them. Love and effort was lavished on their clothing and setting, with small pieces of old Redware and little books and tiny textiles like the doll quilts and bonnets, not to mention the expensive little shoes!! In May of 2005 while we were in New England buying antiques for our shop, lightening struck and the red cape burned and our lifestyle was shattered forever. The damage to the house was beyond our means and strength to restore. The little room under the eves got the worst of it, Firemen battled the blaze for over 4 hours. They handed out blackened little bodies of the dolls soaked through and through. Prized 18th century portraits were lost and all oriental rugs went to the dump. Our collection which had filled the house was cut in half. (We are grateful for that remaining half!!) It was black devastation we flew home to. I screamed and cried as you may imagine. Many of the favorite dolls never came out of the ruins. Of those dolls that did, bodies and clothing were sent to the dump, and the blackened heads set aside to dry out, It was months and months before I could even look at them. The farm is sold, we have found and moved into a new home in the city now, and one year after the fire finds me buying a few dolls while working to restore some of the blackened ones. The china heads, of which I had only a few, cleaned up well and are accepting of new bodies, and hopeful of new outfits. Is there ever justification for repainting papier mache's? Serious collectors will not have one that has lost it's original painted personality. We have come a long way from collector Madeline Merrill who wrote "The Art of Dolls" and who routinely repainted paper mache's, and is so pictured. I have the head of a great Voit boy from her collection that she had repainted, should I not repaint him again? Could I place another lovely flirty eyed voit boy head in the garbage? No, I am repainting them, and calling each by name as they look at me again. What is will never be what was and still I must try. I only hope they will not be scorned and that someone will treasure them and give them care when I no longer can. Many little heads are still waiting.


August 2 2006


Dear Virginia and Rosie, as I worked in my garden this morning early, I felt hugged by you both as I looked at the Rabbit from Virginia and the bird bath from Rosie with two doves on it. I am reminded of both of you so often, and I feel privileged to have you for friends, Jack has finished the fence in the back yard and built an arbor over the entrance. We are continuing to put in plants and move rocks around in the back yard, which is hard on everybody in the heat of August! Transplants have to be given great care to make it. Week by week we can see improvement, there were only grass burrs and bad grasses last year when we first saw this property. We have lived in it 9 months now and are getting more comfortable right along. Today I planted garlic chives and parsley and a gardenia. Yesterday a mock orange, 3 dwarf white crepe myrtles 4 rosemarys, 6 little yaupon hollies and a Russian sage. Day before it was variegated ground cover in the front beds. Isn't it amazing how many plants it takes to make a yard! One of my favorites is the white rose of sharon. I have to fight the deer off it. Have a great day, Best, E



August 4 2006


Hi to Melanie, Rosie and Virginia, I want to let you know because you Three have been so supportive and asked many times if the book that was almost ready for the publisher when the fire hit us, will ever make it into print. I think so! I am formatting it and will get a figure from the great printer we used on the first book. I hope to have it printed soon, in time for the fall and Christmas business. Will keep you posted. The Title is Pockets and Rollups for my Red Cape. I hope this book will be of interest to re enactors, quilters, and other people who enjoy early textiles




August 25 2006


Yeah! the proofs on my pockets and rollups book came from the printer yesterday. I have sent them back with a note of approval and expect to have my new books in hand within two weeks. I will go to San Antonio on the day the books are printed and watch as the huge 10 color Heidelberg digital press rolls out the first sheets. These I must check for color balance and initial and then the big press, as long as a locomotive, will roll out the book pages. It is a champagne moment! Then a few days later when they are covered and fastened together with the pattern insert in the middle, Jack and I will go back to SA with a trailer and bring home a great stack of boxes, where to put them I have no good idea! I have my first two orders for the book this morning. Thank you!!




September 12, 2006


Dear Casey, thank you for your warm letter! The book was launched yesterday at a local hookin, and Jack and I felt it went well, considering that this was a group of hookers not stitchers. Many people had very nice things to say about the overall appearance of it, and we sold 21 singles, as well as 4 dozen to dealers, Jack also mailed off 2 dozen while I was at the hookin, and we have orders for 15 more here that we have not yet addressed. So We are busy with lots of people. If it were not so, I would be worried! It is good to have the new book to promote and ship, this certainly keeps us busy. Take Care, E




October 2, 2006


Dear Sandy, I know the Amish school that suffered the killings is near to you. What an unbelievable tragedy. I had an antique dealer friend, Frances Woods, in Bird in Hand almost 40 years ago. I used to stay with Marion and Ed Rohr on a dairy farm near Paradise. I went there for years and years on antiquing trips. Frances had a well known shop and sold things from that area She took me to meet Hattie Bruner and showed Hattie some of my paintings. Frances used to sell my primitive paintings of children in her shop and did not even want any money for it which I insisted on anyway. I was single then and trying to make it as an artist, and I did! Jack's father used to make my picture frames and I met Jack through his parents. I loved Pennsylvania then and do now, I feel so deeply for what has happened in God's very own garden. Best, Edyth



October 3, 2006

Hi Sandy, you asked about the doll I bought on line over the weekend. She is part of the collection of Mary Merritt's museum which has now closed after over 40 years of operation. Jack has driven me there many times in years past to enjoy that special collection and the lovely way they were displayed with so many precious small things. The auction was held in Reading and I wanted something from that museum. The entire auction was live on line for two days, and I found I was not fast enough on my reaction to bid live from home and catch the dolls I hoped for except this one. I continue to spend hours repainting the fire blackened doll heads from our own collection, but it is so nice to add one in it's nice original finish! Yesterday I had an opportunity to re purchase a painted face rag doll that I made in 1990. A friend in California let me buy it back. She is my take off on the Izannah Walker dolls. Best, Edyth



October 14th 2006 To Renee Naneman

Dear Renee, thank you for writing. It is good of you to think of us, and yes I remember your visit before. As we were not able to restore and rebuild, we could not stay on the farm where the shop and studio and workshop buildings were. All that is sold and closed. We loved our way of life there on the little farm. I can close my eyes and feel the soft noses of my goats in my hands as they nibbled goodies. Each tree and bush and vista was dear. But change happens and we must keep our flags flying, which I finally seem to be doing.. I am painting some, and hope to do a nice one of my red house someday, can't attempt it yet with a straight face. I recently published a pattern book for pockets and rollups, which I am wholesaling if you are interested. I do not think anyone has them for the Houston Quilt show, although Mad Anthony books took them to Nashville. This one has just been out a few weeks. All of this brings you up to date on what's going on with us. I hope to see you an your way through Fredericksburg to the Houston Quilt Show. Best, Edyth




November 15th 2006 Sawdust in Rag dolls??


As antiques dealers and collectors for a number of years my husband Jack and I have handled many quilts and other textiles. So of course we learned many years ago that storing them in wooden blanket boxes or chests caused foxing (discoloration) and ultimately disintegration. We have all heard that to frame a sampler we should keep the textile away from wood for the same reason. It took me a while to make the connection from this to the stuffing of bears and dolls. Excelsior stuffed bears (all those dear old ones) and sawdust stuffed doll bodies (think of the brown ones on many china heads) will probably disintegrate by and by. My first bears and first few rag dolls (1982-3) are sawdust stuffed, as I thought I was making an authentic choice. In looking at my own old, old dolls, the bodies that have faired best over time have been stuffed with hair, rag scraps and cotton. Since 1985 or so, I have not used the sawdust. What are some thoughts from others on this? Edyth



November 20th 2006


Dear Friends, Jack and I are planning a nice Thanksgiving with some of our family here for lunch and more for desert later in the day. We will take plates of turkey and trims to Jack's parents, who avoid larger gatherings. Lillian is 89 and John is 95, still living on their own very well in a pretty little house, with attention from us all when needed. There are 5 generations of our family in Fredericksburg now! I am really enjoying my painting with Nancy Martin. She comes here to the house on Tuesday mornings and we paint side by side as she talks about why she is doing what, and I am learning so much from her. Painting is a life long study. Nancy is from Virginia, as my people were way back. She likes the delft and the old furniture and the antique doll family. At present we are doing portraits of my granddaughter Sarah at age 4 or 5 from a photo. Sarah is a grown woman now. I will post the pictures when we have them finished. Today is a bright beautiful day. Jack has gone to take our granddaughter Hailey O'Neill to school, we have her with us a few days. Best, E



December 22 2006

Merry Christmas, I am back after cataract surgery and reading pretty well again. Color is just marvelous!! Just have to see to make dolls and read and paint! Precious 8 year old great granddaughter Bailey was here today to see my dolls in their new doll cases. (Aren't all grand children precious??!!!) I really hate to see dolls kept in a cage, I like to have them loose to run around the room and plop on my bed or climb to the top of the old highboy or sit in a small chair. But my doll family has just gotten too large and rowdy to let them run loose that way. I showed Bailey a few different kinds of dolls and opened some of my books and scrapbooks about them. I told her that to be a good doll collector one must read and study the dolls and know when and by whom they were made and what are the fine things about them. She said "Grandmother I will!" I wish all of us a great new year in 2007. Most of all we hope for peace. Best, Edyth



February 13 A day of Painting


February 14, 2007

Dear Friends, Today is a blustery cold day here in central Texas right at the freezing mark, so I can only imagine what it is in Maine! Rose Ellen reports new snow there and another friend reports snow in Pennsylvania and ice to come. I have decided to make my own sunshine and have a fun day sewing for my dolls. Looking through bits of old calico, a group of tiny early quilt squares called out to be made into the little quilt some child must have started 150 years ago. What precious little hand sewn squares! I bought them over 20 years ago at an antique show in Houston. Today I have set them together with browns from my scrap pile, including the framing fabric from Judy Rothermel’s civil war collection. I will add an appropriate backing and quilt the piece in my lap. Holding the quilt top for you to see is a wax over papier mache’. Watching all of this and hoping for new bodies, are two lovely doll heads I think are quite interesting for the contrast in size, but the exact same form. The perfect tiny so called Greiner style china with brown eyes and exquisite features sits near a great old papier mache shoulder head 10 inches tall, with the identical brown eyes and waves and 10 curls around her head. Both doll heads date about 1850 to 55. The large doll came wearing nice old shoes. Her homemade body is melting, I am not sure whether I will cover it, replace it or patch it. I believe this large head is German, just as the tiny porcelain one is. My own guess is that she was made by Muller. This head was obviously the inspiration for Ludwig Greiner’s doll head of the same form patented by him in 1858. I have several Greiners in this form. Happy Valentine’s day to each of you. Warmly, Edyth


March 2, 2007


Wanted you to see what Jack and I have been working on. I have restored a dear old glass eyed mache of about 1845 and Jack has made this stunning little black highboy that is 33 inches tall. Jack plans next to make a doll size northshore cupboard.


March 3, 2007

Taking somebody apart! This is the body from the 10 inch papier mache doll head pictured further down the page.

The stained old body was leaking sawdust all over so could not very well be left as is. Question was to patch it or recover it or replace it with something clean and sturdy. The large paper mache head was on this body with very tightly fitted dear old shoes. I began by taking off the sox, very holey, but charming. inside the sox, the otherwise rag body has carved wooden feet! The feet are held on with tiny old tacks, which DH said may be as old as mid 19th century. Beautifully done, with distinct toes, not the least primitive. Were they made for this doll body? My husband thinks maybe so. Were they part of another doll or artist figure or creche figure? I would guess that. They have never been painted. It is amazing how closely the old old shoes fit. The head had clearly been off the body, as the glue is yellow but not really old brown glue. So off I took it again. The head has a patch inside the back curls. The top of the body was a surprise! There is made in the same piece with no seam at the neck, a head shape! No face or indication it was ever used as a head, just wadded up and stuffed in the neck. See photos, click each to enlarge. The entire old head and body is hand stitched, with back stitching for strength. The torso is cotton twill, the legs and upper arms smooth old cotton. The worn out leather hands, much patched, are lately attached with white thread unlike any other on the body, obviously not original or even with her a long time. Now to the stuffing! Some parts are stuffed with sawdust. I will open a seam here and there and remove that, place cotton gently and not too tightly in place and sew the seams back together. Some parts are stuffed with cotton, will not bother that. And the top of the body has a great deal of wadded up newspaper, the Baltimore Clipper of January 10 1860. Reading all the notices in that is fascinating! One notice is about the Mount Vernon ladies society purchasing Mt Vernon from a Washington descendant. in the sawdust of a lower leg is a wad I think says 1861. I am debating now what to do with the doll's interesting inner self! I believe I will make a fresh body for the papier mache head and dress it as planned. I have bought a nice old dress for her. If I do that , I can keep the old body, feet showing and head lightly stuffed and sit it around naked with the rest of the dolls. It seems too interesting to cover up. The newspaper will be put in a plastic sheet cover to protect it and help flatten it. There is a name inside the papier mache head in pencil, not really old writing, Ruth Hancock I believe. Maybe this is the person who mended the curls in back. Or it could be the name of the original owner.


March 11, 2007

Dear Helen, Here is a picture of the doll's cupboard Jack has just finished I am thrilled with it! The height is 44 inches to give an idea of scale. I feel so very lucky that Jack has always pampered my doll family and helped so many ways with my collecting. I want to make some little hooked rugs in scale with the furniture he makes. We lost several of those in the fire. I am working on a doll size whale rug now. Of course any simple pattern you reduce will make one. They are so nice under a doll's feet in front of a little chair. We are getting a much needed rain tonight. Best, Edyth

April 29, 2007
I have painted this and that for a number of years, selling quite a few primitive style paintings, which I still enjoy greatly, but only now have decided to try plein air landscapes. I admire the work of John Austin Hannah, Kevin MacPherson, Richard Schmidt and others in this genre. So I feel very much a beginner in a completely new world. Oil Painters of America will hold their annual show in Fredericksburg TX May 10th - 13th. I am not a member, but plan to attend as many of the demonstrations and lectures as possible, and there are a lot! Between the painting and my work on the doll collection, I find my time filled most pleasantly. Heine is smiling because his Aunt Jeanie from Weatherford just sent him a dear little old shirt! I can easily make his trousers, and have shoes for him, so that will be another one dressed! One at a time, a little bit better right along. Heine is an Andreas Voit boy as is the one behind him, and one of the two on a shelf above him. Best, Edyth


June 10, 2007


Now that the yard work is settling down for the summer heat, I am thinking more about the inside of our home. Jack is restoring and making a new seat for a lovely old blue painted Queen Anne arm chair. I am adding to our linens and bed coverings. A used Matelasse bed spread in several dye baths of dark blue or navy rit dye in the washer, looks a great deal like an old indigo linsey woolsey to a casual glance. Use Rit Tan dye, and you have a burtternut one. Friend Penny has dyed one of each of these and also one in a luscious shade of coral-rust. We like using the liquid dye. Getting a deep color with so much white fabric takes more than one bottle of dye. Penny dyes successive times to have control over the depth of color.


Televisions are a continuing problem for the decorator, and they are getting larger and larger!! For a time, we could hide them in awkward shaped cupboards, but not these new monsters. I have been giving thought to how to enjoy them and still put them out of sight when not on. I would like to hear back from people with other interesting solutions.


If you can manage to have a new thin Television mounted on a wall over a blanket chest or mantel or dry sink or other suitable furniture, placed about as you would hang a painting or a nice hooked rug over the piece of furniture or mantle, here is one way to cover it. Make a frame of 1 by 4’s or what ever depth is needed to conceal the sides of the TV. On one side of the frame mount a reproduction wooden blanket crane made to fit, with either a large piece of a woven coverlet draped on the crane or a hooked rug hung from it, or another attractive textile. Be careful not to over load the blanket crane, it needs to be a sturdy one. It is necessary to think ahead about the wall where the crane will swing when the television is in use.


Since the TV’s are out in the open now and central in a room, various ways need to be devised to cover them. A shallow wall cupboard is one answer. Shutters, quilts, or other coverings can be devised. Let me here what others are doing about this! Best, Edyth


This is the end of all the previous posts
I hope to continue with current posts now on this new site, having moved all of the posts above from the old one. Pictures did not move with, I will try to get some back in later! E

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