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(From the Annual Report of the American Historical Association for 1901, 
Vol. I, pages 197-210, ) 



ftB 3 1903 
D. cfD. 








In presenting- a memorial to the late Prof. Herbert B." 
Adams I stand as one among a large number who would be 
glad to bring forward their tributes of respect and affection. 
The ties which bound him to his contemporaries were numer- 
ous and varied. To his students he was an inspiring teacher 
and a faithful friend. To the world of educators he was an 
adviser whose opinions and cooperation were sought and 
shared by many. To the members of this association he was 
a trusted leader and hopeful comrade. Hence this paper will 
not stand alone. Numerous estimates of his work and char- 
acter have already appeared in the periodical press, but it is 
fitting that in the proceedings of the society which he did so 
much to found and to foster a brief biographical sketch should 
appear. It is with this in view that 1 take this place, and for 
the reason that circumstances have placed within my reach 
materials for the description of his earlier life and later 
academic history. In fact, Professor Adams himself had col- 
lected from time to time the chief items in his own career, 
and of these I have made free use. M}^ only regret is that 
this matter was not left more in autobiographical form, so that 
it might be presented to you with the charm of reminiscence. 

Herbert Baxter Adams was ])orn at Shutesbury (near Am- 
herst), Mass. , April 10, 1850. His father was Nathaniel Dick- 
inson Adams, a lumber merchantand selectman of Sluitesbury, 
and a descendant of Henr}^ Adams, who settled in Braintree, 
Mass., 1634. His mother was Harriet Hastings, a descend- 
ant of Deacon Thomas Hastings, who settled in Watertown, 
Mass., 16M. Lieut. Thomas Hastings, of the Revolutionary 
army, was also a member of this family, and the race as a 
whole was of sound Puritan stock. 

Herbert B. Adams prepared for Amherst College in the 
public schools of his adopted town of Amherst, whither his 



mother and two brothers removed after the father's death, 
which occurred, September 7., 1856. The older brothers con- 
tinued their studies at Williston Seminary, East Hampton, 
Mass. ; the oldest, Charles Dickinson Adams, was afterwards 
graduated, at the head of his class, at Amherst College, 1863, 
and became a prominent and respected law3^er in New York 
City. He died March 20, 1889. The second brother, Henry 
Martyn Adams, went from Williston Seminary to Troy Poly- 
technic Institute, and thence to West Point Military Academy, 
from which he was graduated at the head of his class in 1866. 
He now holds the rank of colonel and is a member of the 
United States Board of Engineers, being stationed at present 
at New Orleans. 

At the suggestion of his elder brother, H. B. Adams 
entered Phillips Exeter Academy in the winter of 1867 and 
was graduated with honor in the class of 1868. He won the 
Porter prize for the best entrance examination at Amherst 
College in the fall of that year and was graduated with the 
valedictory in 1872. The following year he taught Latin, 
Greek, mathematics, and classical history at Williston Semi- 
nar}^, where he succeeded Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst, now of 
New York, as teacher of the middle classical class. After a 
year at Williston he was encouraged bj^ his elder brother to 
go abroad for higher studies and sailed for Germany to take 
up history. This was in fulfillment of a desire first conceived 
at Phillips Exeter Academy and strengthened at Amherst 
College. Young Adams acquired his taste for histor}^ from 
books given him at school by his elder brother and by early 
privileges, obtained as a subfreshman, of drawing books from 
the library of Amherst College. President Julius H. Seel3^e 
confirmed this early historical bent of mind by a single lecture 
on "History" in Adams's senior year, but it was President 
Seelye who originally gave him a written permit to use the 
college librar}'^ years before the boy entered the institution. 

Adams said of his own life at Amherst: 

My editorial connection with the Amherst Student really gave a per- 
manent bent to my life. I learned more real useful knowledge in that 
voluntary connection than in all other college means of training — in punc- 
tuation, c()nii)Osition, and rhetoric. To this day I can discern more lasting 
influences proceeding from that editorial den of mine at Amherst than 
from any other one college source. I have forgotten my mathemati(;s, 
which I always hated, hut in which I always ranked high by reason of my 


Exeter training; but I shall never forget how to revise other people's 
manuscript and read proof, although I hate that, too. 

His private reading in college was chiefly in connection with 
the subjects upon which he had to write or debate. History 
was not a large part of his collegiate training, and we might 
be a little surprised that he afterwards devoted his life to it. 
Of this he says himself: "Of history we had nothing at all 
after the freshman year, when Smith's Manuals of Greece and 
Rome were studied in well-chosen selections." The impulse 
came later, "I remember in the philosophical course by the 
president of the college one remarkable lecture on the ' Phi- 
losophy of history.' After rapidly reviewing the course of 
civilization, Dr. Seelye said that history was the grandest 
study in the world. That sentence decided my fate. 1 deter- 
mined to devote myself to that grand subject. Up to that 
time I had no career in mind except journalism. I had written 
more or less for the Amherst Record and for the New York 
and Boston papers when I found a chance to do any reporting. 
But now my mind was quickl}^ made up to pursue the ' grandest 
study in the world' — the recorded experience of mankind." 

Before settling down in Germany Adams studied French 
for some months at Lausanne, Switzerland, whither he had 
been directed by Professor Lalande, his French tutor at Wil- 
liston Seminary, and by whom he was personally introduced 
to a teacher in Professor Thebault, of the Lycee. After 
Lausanne there followed a few months of study and travel in 
Italy and a second brief sojourn in Paris. Here he met his 
elder brother, who dissuaded him from further study in 
France and urged him to take up German university life at 

In January, 1874, he proceeded to Heidelberg with many 
pleasant anticipations, for the place had been graphically pic- 
tured to him by an Exeter fellow-student, a German-American 
named Movius. Here he met his Amherst College friend, 
John B. Clark, now professor in Columbia University, and 
with him heard the lectures of Wilhelm Ihne on Roman his- 
tory, Kuno Fischer on German literature and philosophy, 
and Heinrich von Treitschke on politics. At Heidelberg- 
Adams lived in the family of the late Dr. Emil Otto, author 
of the well-known grammars, and with him studied and prac- 
ticed German, at the same time making many acquaintances 


and good friends among German students. He continued also 
the daily practice of Frencli conversation with Swiss students 
and in a kSwiss family of his acquaintance. Thus passed the 
winter and summer of that academic year. 

After a tour of north Germany and a yisit to the Amherst 
men residing in Gottingen, Adams spent the winter semester 
of 1874-75 at the Uniyersity of Berlin. The professors who 
interested him most were Ernst Curtius, who lectured on 
(xreek art and archaeology; Hermann Grimm, who illustrated 
early Christian and Italian art ])y familiar talks in the Royal 
Museum; Lepsius, who, in the same nuiseum, discoursed on 
Egyptology; Zeller, the historian of Greek philtjsophy ; Droy- 
sen, who lectured on the French Revolution; and Treitschke, 
who had just come with great eclat from Heiden)erg, and 
whom Adams, like many other students, had realh^ followed 
to Berlin. The mentor and friend of young Adams in Berlin 
was Elihu H, Root, a pupil of Helmholtz and afterwards pro- 
fessor of physics in Amherst College. 

In the summer of 1875, somewhat discouraged at the pros- 
pect of an expensive and a protracted course of study neces- 
sary for the doctor's degree in Berlin, Adams would have 
returned home to America and actually forwarded his books 
to Glasgow with that intent; l)ut, while on a tour through 
Southern Germany, he received a generous letter from his 
elder brother urging him to remain in German}^ and finish 
what he had begun at Heidell>erg. Accordingly he returned 
for another year and, in the sununer of 1876, under the guid- 
ance of Prof, J. C. Bluntschli, completed a definite course in 
historical and political science. In these subjects he was ex- 
amined by Bluntschli, the statesman, and Knies, the econo- 
mist, and was awarded the degree of doctor of philosophy by 
the political science faculty, July 14, 1876. 

In a little old diary which Adams kept during this period 
there are interesting entries of his reading for this examina- 
tion. Great sections of Bluntschli's Staatslehre, Volkerrecht, 
and Staatsworterlnich, were consumed from day to day. 
While reviewing his notes a month beforehand he writes: 
" Headache; scared over the prospect of exam.'"' Hence we 
are prepared for the entry of July 13: "The die is cast. 
Studied until dinner. Am nervous — had a bad night. Loaf 
until 6 p. m. Examination from 6-8 p. m. Sununa cum 
laude. Knies, Bluntschli, Erdmannsdorfer, Winkelmann, 


Stark, Ribbeck, Weil, and others present." On the 15th of 
July Adams bade farewell to his professors and entered in 
his diary the comment: " Bluntschli a trump." 

Through Bluntschli's personal influence and recommenda- 
tion Adams had been appointed, while still at Heidelberg, to 
the fellowship in history at the Johns Hopkins University. 
It is interesting" to note in this connection that about a year 
after Bluntschli's death (October 21, 1881) his private library 
was publicly presented (December 20, 1882) to the Johns 
Hopkins University by a group of German citizens of Balti- 
more, who thus contributed to the doubly patriotic object of 
presenting the library of a German statesman to an American 
school of historical and political science. (See '"" Bluntschli, 
Lieber, and Laboulaye" and "Bluntschli's Life- Work" by 
H. B. Adams, privatel}^ printed in 1884 by John Murphy & 
Co.) This library was the flrst memorable public gift to the 
new university. 

When Dr. Adams came to Baltimore as fellow in history, at 
the opening of the university, in the fall of 1876, Dr. Austin 
Scott, a graduate of Yale Universit}^, 1869, and now president 
of Rutgers (College, was in charge of the work in history. At 
that time he was the coadjutor of Mr. George Bancroft in the 
revision of his history of the United States, and in the prepa- 
ration of Bancroft's last great work on the Formation of the 
Constitution. Dr. Scott resided in Washington, but came to 
Baltimore once or twice a week for the conduct of a seminary 
of American history, which used to meet in one of the rooms 
of the Maryland Historical Society. It was in connection 
with the work of this seininary that Dr. Adams prepared his 
first printed monograph, entitled "Maryland's Influence in 
Founding a National Commonwealth, or the History of the 
Accession of Public Lands by the Old Confederation." This 
was published in 1877 by the Maryland Historical Society as 
Fund Publication No. 11, and was afterwards, in 1885, repub- 
lished in revised form by the university. The monograph 
presents some of Dr. Adams's favorite subjects of study; for 
example, the importance of our western territory as a neces- 
sary economic and historic basis for the American Union. 
George Washington's interest in Avestern lands, in the Potomac 
Company (historic forerunner of the Chesapeake and Ohio 
Canal) and in the project of a national university continued to 
influence Dr. Adams throughout his academic life. He 


believed most strongly in our first President's notion of a 
great school of political science, midway between the North 
and the South, to which 3'oung men from both sections could 
come and, by friendh^ association, do awa}" in some measure 
with what Washington called " local attachments and State 

The first work of Dr. Adams as a teacher in the Johns Hop- 
kins University began while he was yet a fellow. At first he 
had a class of two once a week and a class of one twice a week. 
Both were voluntary. The class of one was peripatetic and 
consisted of a park walk and a talk on American constitutional 
history with George M. Sharp (nowrludge Sharp). The class 
of two was on the outlines of European histor\' and met in one 
of the old buildings, since torn down. 

The register of the university for the third year, 1878-79, 
contains the first mention of Dr. Adams's regular collegiate 
class work : ' ' European History during the Middle Ages," four 
times weekly, first half year, with 14 students. At the same 
time Dr. Scott's "seminary of American history" met for 
advanced work once weekly through the yeav and enrolled 1.5 
students. Adams was also actively connected with this. 

In the spring of 1878 Dr. Adams was invited to Smith Col- 
lege, Northampton, Mass., to lecture to the first three regular 
classes of that new institution. He gave them written lec- 
tures on the history of church and state, which he had origi- 
nally prepared and which he had already given in part at the 
Johns Hopkins University in the previous 3^ear, to a semi- 
pu])lic audience of ladies and gentlemen. The invitation to 
Smith College was the beginning of Dr. Adams's academic pro- 
motion, for, when called to a professorship in Northampton, he 
was appointed at a lower salary an associate in history in Balti- 
more. He continued to hold both positions for some years, 
lecturing on history at Smith College during the spring term. 

It was at a June couunencement in Northampton that Presi- 
dent Gilman once began his address with tfiis pleasant intro- 
duction : 

I know not what unseen ties may bind Smith College and the Johns 
Hopkins University together, but I do know that they both have the 
same teacher of history, who, in his annual migrations from Northampton 
to Baltimore, l)rings us tidings of the beautiful, the true, and the good. 

This springtime experience of Dr. Adams in the Connecti- 


cut Valley, only a few miles from his own home, he always 
looked back upon with the greatest pleasure. 

In 1881 Edward A. Freeman visited America and spent some 
time in Baltimore lecturing at the Peabod}^ Institute and at 
Johns Hopkins University. He took much interest in the 
historical work of the university, and in an English Review, 
and later in his book called "Impressions of the United 
States," Mr. Freeman said: 

A young and growing school which still has difficulties to struggle 
against may be glad of a good word on either side of the ocean. I can not 
help mentioning the school which is now devoting itself to the special 
study of local institutions, a school which is spread over various parts of 
the Union, but which seems to have its special home in the Johns Hopkins 
University, at Baltimore, as one from which great things may be looked 
for. Nor can I help adding the name of my friend, Mr. Herbert B. Adams, 
as that of one who has done much for the work, and who, to me at least, 
specially represents it. 

For several years after his visit to Baltimore, and after his 
call to the historical professorship at Oxford, Mr. Freeman 
continued to write encouraging letters to Dr. Adams. In an 
article entitled "Mr. Freeman's visit to Baltimore "Dr. Adams 
gave an account of a great service rendered by Freeman and 
James Bryce to Maryland and the Maryland Historical Society. 
They visited the building of the Historical Society and there 
were made acquainted with the archives of the State. After- 
wards each of the visitors wrote a letter regarding the impor- 
tance of preserving and publishing the manuscript records of 
the Commonwealth. These opinions, made public by the His- 
torical Society and reinforced by prominent citizens and the 
whole Baltimore delegation to the legislature, were laid before 
the general assembly, while a sharp newspaper campaign was 
conducted by Dr. Adams. The result was the removal of the 
colonial papers from Annapolis to Baltimore and the begin- 
ning of their publication at State expense. 

We see from Mr. Freeman's description the tendency of the 
historical seminary which Adams was quietly building up. 
At first it was held in the rooms of the Maryland Historical 
Society, then in a basement room of the Peabody Library, 
where he was allowed to collect and use books on English 
constitutional history. Shortly before Mr. Freeman's visit 
the Bluntschli Library was received, and he found both semi- 
nary and books installed in handsome quarters on the univer- 
sity premises. In these rooms, since devoted to mineralogy, 


pa.s.sed the stirrinj^- period of .Vdaius's universit}' (-areer. It is 
to that seminary table, placed in the midst of a laboratory of 
l)ooks and literall\' li^-htod from above, that the recollections 
of the older generation of Hopkins historians return. 

Adams himself was at this time deeply interested in the 
orif^inof \e\v England towns and othoi- local institutions, for 
which he made numerous ori*>-inal investigations. He derived 
the impulse not from Freeman. l>ut from a study of Sir 
Henry iSIaine and Von Maurer, first suggested b^" Professor 
Erdmannsdorfer in a Heidelberg seminary. 

The researches of Adams's seminary progressed so vigorous- 
ly that a regular form of pubHcation was found desiral)le. In 
1882 he began the issue of the "Johns Hopkins University 
Studies in Historical and Political Science. " To give the enter- 
prise an impulse, ]Mr. Freeman after his return to England 
wrote an ''Introduction to American Institutional Histor3\" 
It was this phrase which suggested to the academic council 
nearly ten years later the title of Adams's professorial chair. 

At the time the,y were started the historical studies were 
new, and at once attracted attention at liome and abroad. 
The personal contributions of the editor were numerous, 
chiefly in the held of American institutional and educational 
history. These publications set the example in this countr}'^ 
for original academic contributions to historical and political 
science in serial form. In twenty years such monographs 
and periodicals have increased to a wonderful degree, and all 
are adding something to the scientific and economic capitiil of 
the country, })ut we must look back to Adams as the leader of 
the movement. 

The value of the studies was recognized at once. John 
Fiske, more than ten years ago, said: 

In sUidying the local institutions of our iliffrrent States I have been 
greatly helped by the .Tohns Hopkins rniversity SUidies in History and 
Politics. * * * In the course of the pages ])elo\v I have frecjucnt occa- 
sion to acknowledge my indel)tedness of these learned and sometimes pro- 
foundly suggestive monographs, but I can not leave the subject without a 
special word of gratitude to my friend, Dr. Herbert B. Adams, editor of 
the series, for the noble w'ork which lie is doing in promoting the study of 
American history. 

The works of James Bryce and other writers upon Ameri- 
can institutions are full of notes derived from the special 
monographs of this series. 


In 1884 Dr. Adams joined with Justin Winsor, Andrew D. 
White, Charles Kendall Adams, Clarence W. Bowen, and oth- 
ers in the organization of this American Historical Associa- 
tion. The records of his official connection are to be found 
in the long series of its publications. It is to be found also in 
the memories of a greater number of you who are present on 
this occasion. But those who have not stood close to Adams 
in his lifetime can scarcely realize the amount of time and 
attention which he devoted to this Association, not only in 
preparation for its annual meetings, the arrangements of pro- 
grammes and addresses, but in the constant daily attention to 
its business and progress. Notwithstanding the fact that he 
was furnished with most efficient clerical assistance, there were 
always innumerable questions to be referred to him for decision, 
and it was close attention to this in Hnitude of detail which carried 
forward the Association with smoothness and precision. But, 
of all his work for the Association, Adams was proudest of the 
part he took in obtaining a national charter in 18S9. He 
regarded the connection with the Smithsonian Institution as 
a most important extension of usefulness and a union to be 
fostered and utilized with every care. 

Adams's contributions to historical literature were chiefly 
monographic. In 1893, however, he brought out in two large 
octavo volumes the Life and Writings of Jared Sparks. He 
had been persuaded by the late Andrew P. Peabody and by 
the widow of Jared Sparks to undertake the examination of 
his voluminous papers. It was a laborious task, for the editor 
of Washington's Writings, the Diplomatic Correspondence, 
and a long series of American biographies, North American 
Review, and the writings of Benjamin Franklin had left an 
embarrassment of riches for a review of his own life work. I 
well recollect the vast collection of pamphlet cases and docu- 
mentary files which filled for many 3^ears some of the closets 
in Adams's university office. It seemed an interminal)le labor 
even to examine the series at hand, for Sparks was a man who 
never threw away a letter, even if it were an invitation to a 
dinner. All this had to be sifted in the preparation of the 
volumes which were to show the characteristic activity of the 
man. Dr. George E. Ellis says of these books: "The just as 
well as the highest encomium upon the work of this biogra- 
pher is spoken when we say in full sincerity that we can con- 
ceive that he would have from Mr. Sparks himself the warmest 


expression of approval and gratitude for the ability, fidelity, 
good taste, and wise judgment with which he has wrought his 
exacting labor." (Proceedings of the Massachusetts Society, 

In 1887 Dr. Adams began to edit for the United States 
Bureau of Education a scries of contributions to American 
educational history. These begin with a monograph on the 
college of William and Mary. In this he took occasion to put 
forward some of his own ideas al)out higher education, with 
suggestions for its national promotion. He advocated the 
founding in Washington of a civil academy which should be 
in matters of political science and civil-service training what 
West Point and Annapolis are in militar}" and naval education. 
This idea was derived from old William and Mary College, 
the first school of history, politics, and economics in this 
country. The idea is reinforced by Washington's plan of a 
national university midway between the North and the South, 
which seems in these days to be approaching a realization. 

Dr. Adams further contributed to his educational series 
Thomas Jefi'erson and the University of Virginia, and another 
elaborate report on the Study of History in American Colleges 
and Universities. With the approval of successive commis- 
sioners of education, he arranged for a series of histories of 
higher education in the various Sfcites of the Union. These 
have been prepared by authors and subeditors selected by 
Dr. Adams, and of the 32 monographs all but 8 were com- 
pleted at the time of his death. Adams also prepared for 
the Bureau of Education special monographs on popular edu- 
cation. Chautauqua schools in America and in Europe, uni- 
versity extension in Great Britain, and university extension 
in America were also given a thorough treatment. 

Adams's interest in these forms of education led him also to 
lecture for several years before the Chautauijua Lake Assem 
bly. His latest report in this field was a monograph prepared 
for the Paris Exposition on Poi)ular Education in tlie United 
States. It may be said that in the educational domain, this 
field interested him in late years more than any other. On 
his desk he pinned a card containing the words of Jules Sieg- 
fried, senator of France, "The education of the people is the 
first duty of democi'acy." 

Adams remained steadily in Baltimore for twenty -five years. 


He had every inducement to go to other institutions of learn- 
ing, but for personal reasons preferred to remain where he 
began. At the time of the Chicago Exposition in 1893, he 
was offered the directorship of the department of liberal arts, 
and at the same time he had offered him the professorship of 
history and the deanship of the graduate department of (.hi- 
cago University. But with all due respect to the promising 
future there spread before him, he preferred to stay bj' the 
department of his first love. It was while still in the harness 
which he assumed in 1876 that he was first stricken down in 
1899. He continued two 3^ears longer in the vain hope of 
restoration to activity, and died at Amherst, Mass., Jul}^ 30, 

To those who worked under Adams as students or assistants 
the predominating notes in his teaching were inspiration and 
sympathy. This was not due to a profundity of thought in 
his lectures which might create wonder and admiration for 
himself in a body of disciples. His lectures were, indeed, 
sound and interesting, but he was also continualh' pointing to 
more work to be done, more fields to be cultivated, and more 
reputations to be made. At every opportunity he brought 
before his classes particularly the work of men who had gone 
out from the seminary. Reports of their successes or fail- 
ures, their promotions or their publications, came before the 
young men almost daily, until they became acquainted b}' name 
with the whole familj^ of fellow-investigators. Such things as 
these men did were within reach of the young aspirant, and 
the effect was to spur every man to do something worthy of 
that company and that university. The results were unequal, 
but the inspiration was universal and lasting. 

This friendly counsel continued after men had gone out to 
fill positions in the professional world. He spared no pains 
in answering requests for advice, whether it related to academic 
methods or private affairs. His numerous literary and edito- 
rial connections placed him in position to point out work to a 
large number of men; consequently his friendship became an 
ever-widening circle. The fact that he never married may 
have allowed him to take an individual interest in his "boys," 
as he was wont to call the men who had gone out from his 

In business affairs he was a man of thrift, but this permitted 
H. Doc. 702, pt. 1 14 


liini to bo useful to others.- Many ji student was the recipient 
of teniporaiy economic aid, loaned unostentatiously and with 
a confidence rarely misplaced. He bought books freely for 
himself and for the seminary, and before his death presented 
his large priyate library to the uniyersity. Outside of a few 
family bequests he devoted his whole estate to public pur- 
poses. To the town of Amherst he gaye his own home, as a 
memorial to his parents, and to Amherst College $2,000, as 
a fund for the purchase of books. To the American Histor- 
ical Association he left $5,000 unconditionalh'. To the uni- 
yersity which he ser\cd for twenty -iiye j^ears he gaye the 
balance of his estate to form the Herbert B. Adams fund, the 
income of which nuist be deyoted to the promotion of history, 
politics, and education. 

Adams took a great interest in religion, especially as viewed 
from the historical standpoint. For many years he lectured 
upon the deyelopment of religious ])elief, tracing it through 
the Orient and the Hebrews into Christianity. The result 
was wide catholicity of sentiment on his own part and broad 
interpretation of the Christian doctrines. He was not a man 
who took a prominent part in the devotional side of religion, 
but was a constant nienil)er and attendant upon church serv- 
ices and gave thought to his own belief. In a paper written* 
some years ago I found a creed written in his own hand in 
which his beliefs and hopes are placed in an all-wise Provi- 
dence, and in what may be called the broad essentials of 
Christian doctrine. 

In practical work his SA'mpathies were bound l)v no single 
church, for he was constantly aiding the educational move- 
ment of all denominations. Ministers, priests, rabbis, com- 
mittees from Christian associations, and all sorts of workers 
were continually consulting with him in regard to social work. 
To these forms of religious activity he devoted many hours of 
his life. 

This was a bus}- man, who wore himself out at the age of 
51. One-half of his allotted time was devoted to preparation 
and one-half to the fulfillment of his life work. We looked 
for a longer sojourn among us, that he might continue activit}' 
in the prime of life and reap the honors and rewards of old 
age. But since it was otherwise decreed. I leave a feeble 
tribute in the archives of the Association of which he was an 
honored otficcr and devoted friend. 


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