Let us take a glimpse of Madison in the summer of 1846, when the settlement was nine years old. By act of legislature approved February 3, it had been incorporated as a village. The population had taken somewhat of a jump during the two preceding years, being now 626. Yet at no time in Territorial days did Madison make the progress which most other Western villages were making, when advantageously situated. This was owing to several reasons: (1) The efforts being annually made to remove the Capital to some other place, generally to Milwaukee; (2) the spirit of bitterness which was thereby engendered between Madison and the metropolis; (3) the record of three distinct village plats. The Capital-removal agitation was not quieted for many years,--one occasionally hears of it even in our day,--and it took a long time to secure legal decisions settling the question of titles. At the period we are considering, three-fourths of the village site was covered by trees and hazel-brush, and everything was in a crude condition. The village hogs slept at night in the cellars of the Capitol, and the park itself was a mere jungle of wild grass, scrub oak, and bushes. The habits of the settlers were simple; their wants were easily satisfied; very little money was in circulation; the county and Territory paid its officials salaries and other dues in scrip, which was seldom negotiable at par; social life was purely democratic in its character,1 doors and windows were unfastened at night, because there was but little worth stealing and thieves and tramps had not yet been attracted hither. Postage was 25 cents for a single sheet, hence there was little correspondence with friends left at home in the East. The journey to Madison from New York State, or New England, was a two weeks' laborious trip, by lake to Milwaukee, thence by foot or stage nearly a hundred miles across the country. The Wisconsin Capital was a primitive backwoods hamlet, far removed from the centers of civilization, and as yet had not materially changed the aspect of nature on the interlacine isthmus. "Not over half a dozen houses had been erected westward or northward of the Capitol square; and the forest northeastward remained unbroken below" where is now Flom's Hotel.2
As already intimated, the sessions of the Territorial legislature were the events of the year at Madison, and attracted prominent men from all quarters of Wisconsin. The crude hotels were filled each winter with legislators, lobbyists, and visiting politicians. Old settlers delight to rehearse tales of what was done and said at these annual gatherings of the clans--it was not until 1882 that the sessions were made biennial. The humors of the day were often uncouth. There was a deal of horse-play, hard-drinking and profanity, and occasionally a personal encounter during the heat of discussion; but an under-current of good-nature was generally observable, and strong attachments between the leaders were more frequently noticeable than feuds. Dancing and miscellaneous merry-making were the order of the times; and although there was a dearth of womankind in these Madison seasons, society at the Capital was thought to be fashionable. Even when the legislature was not in session, Madison remained the social and political center of the Territory, and travelers between the outlying settlements on the shores of the Mississippi, and Lake Michigan or Green Bay, were wont to tarry here upon their way. Several of them have left us, in journals and in letters, pleasing descriptions of their reception by the good-natured inhabitants, and the impressions made on them by the natural attractions of this beauty-spot.
The old Territorial legislature had much to do, winter by winter, in carving out new counties; molding in detail the statutory laws; making political apportionments after each new census, in a domain rapidly filling up with a robust American population--and now and then there were unfortunate quarrels with the Territorial governor. As a whole, the quality of legislation was good, and there prevailed a healthy political tone, although personal acrimony was sometimes much in evidence. The killing in the council chamber, of Charles C. P. Arndt, of Brown county, by his fellow member, James R. Vineyard, of Grant (February 11, 1842), was the great sensation of Territorial days, and gained for Wisconsin an unenviable notoriety all over the country.
The village trustees had not been in office more than three weeks before they proposed (March 23, 1846) to lease the hydraulic power within the corporation limits. The proposals contained a preamble asserting that, "It has been ascertained that there is within the corporation limits of Madison, a fall or difference of elevation between the Third and Fourth of the Four Lakes, sufficient if improved, to create a water-power of considerable magnitude." Simeon Mills made a proposition, which was accepted, to lease this water-power for sixty years; but later, after a fresh survey of the lake levels, he abandoned the enterprise. At various times thereafter, the Catfish water-power project was publicly discussed, but nothing more came of it than a small grist mill at the outlet of Lake Mendota which was destroyed by fire a few years since. The city has lately regained possession of the dam, and will hereafter use it merely as a means of regulating the level of the lakes.
Green Bay had a newspaper (the Intelligencer) as early as 1833; the Milwaukee Advertiser had been founded in 1836, and the Sentinel in 1837; while Mineral Point witnessed the birth of the Miners' Free Press in the latter year. But it was November, 1838, before the Enquirer was born, the first newspaper in Madison; the second was the Express, founded in 1839; in 1842, the Wisconsin Democrat appeared upon the scene; in 1844, the Argus; the Statesman in 1850, the State Journal in 1852, and the Patriot and Staats-Zeitung in 1854. The first regularly-issued daily in the village--there had been daily legislative editions before that--was the Argus and Democrat in 1852, the present Daily Democrat being established in 1868; the State Journal began with a daily in 1852.3
The Madison newspapers have, from the first, been edited by men of considerable reputation in their profession. The Enquirer was established by Josiah A. Noonan, who was, for a generation, one of the most prominent men in the State; among others who were, at various times, connected with this journal, were C. C. Sholes, George Hyer, J. G. Knapp, and Harrison Reed, whose names are indissolubly connected with the work of molding the young commonwealth. W. W. Wyman, in his day one of the leading citizens of Wisconsin, founded the Express, and such men of influence as Julius T. Clark, William Welch, Jerome R. Brigham, and David Atwood were at different periods engaged as its editors. The first Wisconsin Democrat was the child of J. G. Knapp, among whose associates were J. P. Sheldon (founder of the Detroit Gazette) and George Hyer; it suspended in 1844, and another paper of the same name was established (1846) by Beriah Brown, one of the foremost Territorial journalists.The Wisconsin Argus was founded by Simeon Mills, John Y. Smith, and Benjamin Holt, with whom, in time, became associated Horace A. Tenney, David T. Dickson, and S. D. Carpenter--all of them men whose history is that of the Wisconsin of their day. The Wisconsin Statesman was conducted by W. W. and A. U. Wyman (the latter becoming, in after years, treasurer of the United States), with William Welch as associate editor. The State Journal (founded by David Atwood in 1852) was the successor of the Palladium, itself the successor of the Express and the Statesman; as the Express was founded in 1839, the State Journal has always dated its birth back to that year.4 However correct may be the genealogy, this paper can boast a long bead-roll of editorial worthies; among them, Horace Rublee, George Gary, Harrison Reed, A. J. Turner, James Ross, Hayden K. Smith, J. 0. Culver, Levi Alden, 0. D. Brandenburg, Horace A. Taylor, A. J. Dodge, and Amos P. Wilder--several of these, men who in the later years of their life achieved wide reputation in this and in other fields of usefulness. The name of the Wisconsin Patriot recalls that of its old chief, S. D. Carpenter, who is well remembered among the newspaper men of the State. The Daily Democrat, which succeeded the Wisconsin Union, itself the successor of the Wisconsin Capitol (1865) and the Wisconsin Democrat (1846), has been the product, in various years, ,of such men of character and influence as J. B. and A. C. Parkinson, George Raymer, R. M. Bashford, L. M. Fay, H. W. Hoyt, E. E. Bryant, and 0. D. Brandenburg. Situated at the political and educational center of the State, in close and daily touch with the mainsprings of action in these two important fields, Madison journals have always had a marked influence on public opinion. Its editors are forced to look beyond the affairs of their immediate neighborhood, and discuss men and measures of the State at large; their constituency is the commonwealth, and this fact has given unusual breadth and freshness to their treatment of public affairs.
It was during the existence of Madison as a village, that the majority of our principal church societies were organized.The first in the field had been the Episcopalians. The following paper, dated July 25, 1839, is the earliest known document in the history churches of the Madison churches--most of the signatures are those of leading pioneers:
names are hereunto
attached, believing the Holy Scriptures
to be the word of God, and deeply
feeling the importance of
divine service in our town, and
preferring the Protestant
Church to any other, we hereby
unite ourselves into a parish
the said church for the above and
every other purpose which
requisite and necessary to the
"Madison, July 25, 1839.
"Signed by John Catlin, J. A. Noonan, Henry Fake, H. Fellows, M. Fellows, A. Hyer, H. Dickson, H. C. Fellows, Adam Smith, A. Lull, Almira Fake, La Fayette Kellogg, George C. Hyer, J. Taylor, A. A. Bird, David Hyer."
Nothing appears to have immediately come out of this movement. March 8, 1840, a meeting of five citizens5 was held in the Capitol, and a society organized, with the name Apostolic Church, and Rev. Washington Philo as clergyman. Mr. Philo served for a year--meetings being held in the Capitol--and was succeeded by Rev. Richard F. Cadle, of the Green Bay mission. Mr. Cadle can not have long remained, for we read in the village annals that December 19, 1845, Rev. Stephen McHugh accepted a call to Madison, and set about "the organization of a parish" to be known as Grace Church; under his ministry, the ladies of the society raised $150, with which were purchased the two lots occupied by the present church building. Resigning in 1847, Mr. McHugh does not seem to have had a successor until 1850, when Rev. W. H. Woodward, of Pontiac, Mich., accepted the call of the vestry. During his pastorate, a brick building was erected on the church lots. Thereafter, there was regular service. The foundations of the present stone church were laid in the autumn of 1855; but the old brick building, long used as a chapel and Sunday school, was not demolished until 1868.
Mr. Philo had been in charge of his flock some seven months, when another church society was formed in the settlement. October 4, 1840, nine persons,6 also meeting in the old Capitol, "united themselves in an organization as a Christian Church in Madison." Rev. Elbert Slingerland, a Reformed Dutch Church missionary, was the organizer of this movement, and induced his little band to assume the name of that denomination; but upon his departure (June, 1841), they attached themselves to the Presbyterian and Congregational Convention of Wisconsin, and adopted the name of the Congregational Church in Madison,thus being the founders of the present society. Rev. J. M. Clark, of Kentucky, now took charge of the work, being succeeded in 1843 by Rev. S. E. Miner, of New York, who was in the employ of the Home Missionary Society; he in turn was succeeded (October, 1846) by Rev. Charles Lord, of Missouri, who was installed in 1852, at the time the church became self-supporting. At first the Congregationalists met in the Capitol, then the favorite meeting place of what churches there were in the community. Next, they sought shelter in the old Peck tavern building, the first house in the village; then in a spacious new barn; next in a little frame building on Webster street (the first church in Madison), which was dedicated in 1846, and in its day deemed a lordly structure, from having cost $1,800--the same building now occupied by the German Presbyterian society, under the ministry of the Rev. H. A. Winter. It was upon this building that the first public bell was hung in Madison (July, 1847). In ten years (1856) the church house had become too small for the Congregationalists, and meetings were thereafter held in Bacon's Commercial College, until they could erect (1857-58) the brick chapel on West Washington Avenue, costing $4,400. This was occupied until May, 1874, when the present church home was completed and dedicated.
The first sermon preached in Madison was undoubtedly that of Rev. Salmon Stebbins, presiding elder of the Milwaukee District of the Illinois Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In the early winter of 1837, he made his way through the woods to this place, and preached (November 28) to the workmen engaged on the Capitol. It is thought that he found none of his faith here, yet Madison, as the Territorial Capital, was in 1838 placed at the head of the list of missions, being on the same circuit with Fort Winnebago (Portage) and Muscoda. The preacher at this time was the Rev. Samuel Pilsbury. Rev. Alfred Brunson, the foremost of the circuit riders of early Wisconsin, arrived in Madison in December, 1840, as a member of the legislature, and throughout that winter exhorted his fellow members as well as the villagers, the meetings being held in the Capitol. In 1841, a regular class was formed here, with eleven members, but it was several years before Madison was anything more than a mission. The first Methodist church (now "The Fair" store) was erected in 1850-52, but for a long time the society was feeble. The present stone church was commenced in 1876.
The German Evangelical Association had a missionary preacher in Madison as early as 1844--Rev. J. G. Miller, whose circuit was the Galena mission, which included portions of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. His was the first German sermon at the Capital. Mr. Miller was, in 1845, assigned to the new Winnebago mission, which embraced the entire Territory of Wisconsin; but in 1846, the name was changed to Madison mission. The German population of Madison grew apace, so that, after being regularly served by various preachers, the association organized a permanent society in 1853, and commenced the erection of a church building--the present brick structure being completed in 1865.
The Baptist church was organized December 23, 1847, with Rev. H. W. Read as the first pastor; it was incorporated in 1853, and during the same year the present brick building was commenced--being,at the time, the best church building in the village.
The Presbyterians organized their church society October 4, 1851, with Rev. H. B. Gardiner as stated supply, and for a time occupied Lewis's Hall, on the east corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Johnson street. In 1853, they moved into their own building, opposite Lewis's Hall; but in 1892 occupied their present quarters on the south corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Dayton street, their former building being converted into a Masonic Temple.
We hear of Catholic services being held in Madison as early as 1843, by Rev. Martin Kundig, of Milwaukee. A chronicler reports that Father Kundig was in that year attempting to raise funds for the erection of a church; but nothing seems to have come of the effort, for it was not until May 28, 1854, that the corner stone of St. Raphael's was laid. Holy Redeemer church (R. C. ) was erected in 1857, but not dedicated until 1869. The German Evangelical Lutherans also built their church in 1857. St. Patrick's church (R. C. ) was erected in 1888.
We have seen that the first house in Madison was a hotel--Peck's log tavern, built for the accommodation of chance travelers, and the workmen engaged in constructing the Capitol. Pierce's dwelling, the second in the place, was a boarding house for the mechanics. It is natural that, considering the genesis and character of Madison, hotels should have played a considerable part in its history, especially in the earlier days. To accommodate the legislators in the winter of 1838-39, two new hotels had been erected, the American House (kept by Messrs. Fake & Cotton) and the Madison Hotel (with Charles H. Bird as proprietor); while Peck's had now assumed the lofty name of Mansion House. The American stood on the site of the present First National Bank, and the Madison on the north corner of Main and Pinckney streets. In the latter house, the Territorial supreme court was organized June 1, 1838, and during the following winter it was headquarters for Governor Dodge and the leading Territorial officials; in the former (destroyed by fire September 5, 1868), the Territorial legislature held its session during February, 1839. A member of the succeeding legislature7 wrote of these hotels: "The American was of wood, two stories above the basement, with a spacious attic; and such was the crowd when the legislature was in session, that the attic (all in one room) was filled with beds on the floor to accommodate lodgers, and it got the cognomen of the 'school section.' The Madison Hotel was not so large, but equally crowded, and besides these, every private house that possibly could accommodate boarders, was filled to over-flowing. The Territory was generally well represented on such occasions, and every one had 'an axe to grind.'" Other hostelries of the pioneer period, but built in later years, were the City Hotel, Lake House, National Hotel, Kentucky House, and Schemerhorn House.
Madison had no public cemetery worthy of the name, until 1846. The summit of University Hill is said to have been the first burial place--"the grave [of a man killed by lightning] being at the southeast corner of the present central building,"8 before the new south wing was added (1898-99). Soon after, a plot was opened in Greenbush, on the city slope of Dead Lake Ridge, but it was small and unimproved. In 1846, the block in the present Sixth Ward, now known as Orton Park, was inaugurated as a burial ground, and appropriately fenced and ornamented; but in time these three-and-a-half acres became choked with graves, and Forest Hill Cemetery, the present beautiful burial place of the city, was opened in 1858. This cemetery embraces sixty acres; the Catholic grounds, across the street, opened two years later, contain seventeen.9
The admission of Wisconsin to the sisterhood of States, in 1848, brought the school lands into market, introduced improvements in the school code, and, by convincing capitalists that the real commonwealth had come to stay, gave a great impetus to the State's mercantile and manufacturing interests as well as to immigration. Madison, which up to this period had been languishing, now entered upon a more prosperous career, reasonably sure of retention as the seat of government--the location here, by the Territorial legislature, of the State University, being deemed an additional guarantee of good faith in this particular. In 1849, L. J. Farwell, a Milwaukee capitalist, took up his residence here. Being a man of marked public spirit, he made extensive improvements, and began to "boom" the place by the liberal distribution of descriptive pamphlets, thus attracting the attention of the outside public to the advantages of Madison as a home. The effect was soon seen in a considerable influx of population, and an increase in business investments. The village school interests, always quickly affected by the condition of the public exchequer, were at once bettered by this improvement in the general prospect; and although they met with many disasters during the next few years, because of general financial panics and local disappointments, this period may be set down as the date at which genuine progress began.10
The population of the village in 1850 was 1,672, a gain of over a hundred per cent in three years. There were strong signs of prosperity, this season, and over a hundred new buildings were erected. A writer in the Argus, this summer, speaks of Madison as being, in spite of its rapid growth, so hidden in the trees that travelers "can only see half of it at a time" and go away with a poor opinion of its size, for "it does not show off to advantage, being, in short, an inhabited forest." During the year, a sale of 5,320 acres of school and University lands in Dane county brought $29,280.03 to the common school fund. The census, in April, showed the presence of 317 persons of school age, of whom 153 were in attendance. In September there were 503 of school age, showing a considerable growth of population during the summer.
During the early months of 1853, the legislature was importuned for a charter, by a party of speculators calling themselves the Rock River Valley Union Railroad Company. It was the first time that a Wisconsin legislature had been "worked" by a railway lobby, and the methods employed this winter were such as to cause a sensation throughout the State, and to scandalize many good citizens.The lobbyists engaged a club house on the corner of Monona Avenue and Doty street (site of the present residence of Mrs. David Atwood), which they called "Monk's Hall;" and herein were given superb dinners and held midnight orgies, the remembrance of which is still vivid in the minds of those who participated in them. The "Monks of Monk's Hall" represented all shades of political belief, and were popularly dubbed "The Forty Thieves"--a term long familiar in Wisconsin political nomenclature, from having later been applied to William A. Barstow and his political adherents.
This year (1853) marked the opening of the first bank in Madison--the State, which began business in January, with $50,000 capital; this was the first bank organized in Wisconsin under the new general banking act. The Bank of the West opened in March, 1854, with a capital of $100,000; in October of the same year, the Dane County opened its doors, followed (1855) by Dickinson's private bank, the Merchants' Bank of Madison (1856), the Wisconsin Bank of Madison (1856), the Bank of Madison (1860), and the First National (1863). The directory for 1866 showed but four then in operation--the Farmers', the First National, the State, and the Madison. In 1875, there were five--the First National, the State, the German, the Park Savings, and the State Savings Institution. Today (1899) there are still five banking institutions in our midst--the First National, the State, the German American, the Capital City, and the Bank of Wisconsin.
The year 1854 was notable in Madison from the arrival of the first railway train--over the Milwaukee & Mississippi line, the pioneer railway of Wisconsin, and the modest progenitor of the present Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul system. The company's bridge over Lake Monona had been begun in the previous year, and its station had been completed on the first of January. The long-expected passenger train came over the bridge May 18, but the track to the station was not laid until the 22d; on the afternoon of the 23d, the train--drawn by two engines, and composed of 32 coaches laden with about 2,500 people--was pulled into the yard, amid the plaudits of thousands of spectators, many of whom, settling in the country early, had never seen a railway train. Prominent figures in the spectacle were several Milwaukee fire companies "in gay red uniforms, with their glistening engines," who rode on flat cars in the rear of the train, accompanied by bands of music and a piece of artillery; while "bright-colored parasols, ranged in groups along the shore, lent liveliness to the scene." The State Journal, in its enthusiastic report, assures us that "It was a grand but strange spectacle to see this monster train, like some huge, unheard-of thing of life, with breath of smoke and flame, emerging from the green openings--scenes of pastoral beauty and quietude--beyond the placid waters of the lake." There was the usual "procession of the multitude" to the Capitol park, "where tables were spread, and a dinner prepared," and oratory without stint. Later, the railway was projected to Prairie du Chien. The telegraph had reached Madison, along country roads, seven years before.
By act of legislature, approved February 13, 1855, the village of Madison was incorporated into a separate, self-governed school district, apart from the town, with six directors who were styled "The Board of Education of the Village of Madison." The present city school board is its lineal descendant. The village experienced another mild "boom" this year. Horace Greeley and Bayard Taylor paid the place a visit,11 and in letters to the New York Tribune highly extolled its beauties. The result was quite marked, there being an almost immediate increase of population and a considerable advance in the price of real estate. Three hundred and fifty buildings were erected during the season, and the village papers reported with much pride that a thousand had been constructed since 1847.
The population had jumped to 6,863, a gain of 1,737 in twelve months, but Superintendent Kilgore, in his annual report, spoke despondently of the fact that the schools had not yet shared the general prosperity. He complained of "great irregularity" and "habitual tardiness;" of lack of interest on the part of parents; of the fact that all the clergymen in the village had spent in the aggregate only six hours during the year, in visiting the schools; of the fact that from 150 to 300 children were in private schools at home or abroad, and that 600 were attending no school whatever, and "as far as they are concerned might as well live in Central Africa as the Capital of Wisconsin." He said that the only school building owned by the city was "a small brick school-house [the Little Brick], fast becoming obsolete, and incapable of accommodating one-thirtieth of those entitled to public instruction." He complained that the citizens had given freely of their money for building churches, but not for the culture of the intellect. He alluded to the fact that "large sums of money had been subscribed to build a theatre--an institution of at least questionable merit, while 600 children are unprovided with even decent school-houses." Such criticism as this has a modern sound, for to this day most cities in the United States are still without sufficient school accommodations for their children.12
1Says a pioneer in Durrie, p. 165: "Social gatherings, from their freedom and intellectual cast, left little to desire. Fun and frolic was the chief characteristic, and more of it in a week than ten years now witness. * * * It was a golden era, which once passed will never return." One must take reminiscences of this sort, with a grain of allowance; as men advance in years, the times of their youth inevitably appear to be the "good old times," in sad contrast with the present; it has always been thus, since the earth was young. No doubt there was far less conventionality in the pioneer days, which to many may seem a better order of things; but there was probably no more real enjoyment at the time, among the pioneers, than among their descendants--very likely, life in Madison was less worth living.
2Durrie, p. 170.
3For a detailed history of the Madison newspaper press, see Catalogue of Newspapers, Wis. Hist. Soc. (1898), pp. 138-147.
4See State Journal for August 16, 1889, article "Fifty Years Old"
5David Hyer, John Catlin, J. A. Noonan, P. W. Matts, and Adam Smith.
6David Brigham, Mrs. E. F. Brigham, W. N. Seymour, Mrs. A. M. Seymour, Mrs. M. A. Morrison, Mrs. E. Wyman, Mrs. C. R. Pierce, Mrs. A. Catlin, and Mrs. Elbert Slingerland.
7Rev. Alfred Brunson, in Durrie's Madison, p. 135.
8H. A. Tenney, in Durrie, p. 164.
9Deming Fitch served as superintendent of Forest Hill Cemetery from 1858 to 1894; his son, W. D. Fitch, from 1894 to 1896; William H. Alford, from 1896 to the spring of 1899; the present superintendent is H. J. Minch.
10 The first circus reached Madison in 1848. The legislature was in session, and the body adjourned thereto "without the formality of a vote."--Durrie, p. 165.
11 Greeley was here in March, and Taylor in May. The former wrote: "Madison has the most magnificent site of any inland town I ever saw. * * * The University crowns a beautiful eminence a mile west of the capitol, with a main street connecting them a la Pennsylvania Avenue. There are more comfortable private mansions now in progress in Madison than in any other place I have visited, and the owners are mostly recent immigrants of means and cultivation, from New England, from Cincinnati, and even from Europe. Madison is growing very fast. * * * She has a glorious career before her." Taylor's comment was: "For natural beauty of situation, Madison is superior to every other Western city that I have seen." Greeley and Taylor were here in connection with a lecture course (winter of 1854-55, and spring of 1856), in which other participants were James Russell Lowell, Parke Godwin, and John G. Saxe. September 12, 1860, Madison was visited by William H. Seward and Charles Francis Adams. August 31, 1861, Prince Napoleon and his beautiful young wife, a daughter of Victor Emmanuel, of Italy, with their suite, passed through en route to St. Paul, but shut themselves up in their railway carriage and declined to be gazed at by the crowd, which nevertheless good-naturedly cheered the travelers. John Walter, owner of the London Times, was in Madison in 1876. Sir Edwin Arnold visited us January 5-6, 1892, and afterwards wrote pleasantly of the city. Matthew Arnold was another of Madison's distinguished visitors; and Ole Bull married and long lived here. Longfellow, who wrote charmingly of Madison's "limpid lakes," was never in Wisconsin. The final chapter of our Story records the visits of other celebrities, in later years.
12 The following is a list of presidents and clerks of the Board of Education, since its organization in 1855:
Presidents, Clerks.1855 W. B. Jarvis - - - W. A. White.
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