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Profile: Morrison’s Patriot

(This page revised September 8, 2022)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]


The Quintessential Wartime Pen

Patriot advertising matchbook, c. 1943
This Morrison advertising matchbook appeared c. 1943. It makes the Patriot set seem almost a necessity, and it implies, misleadingly, that the Patriot could be worn in uniform.

LogoDuring World War II, people around the world learned to get along on less, giving up critical war resources such as steel, rubber, and gasoline so that their countries’ war efforts could go forward. The war had a profound effect on fountain pen manufacture. One of its most noticeable results in the area of writing instru­ments was the creation of the Morrison Patriot, born of war and designed to fan the flames of patriotism in its users. Despite the fact that the Patriot did not conform to military regulations and therefore could not be carried in the breast pocket of a uniform, Patriot advertising (as exemplified by the matchbook cover shown to the right) suggested that Stateside civilians should purchase the pen as a gift for that lonely soldier or sailor who was fighting on the other side of the world.

The Patriot’s Parentage

The Morrison Fountain Pen Company, located in New York City and founded in 1910 by brothers Louis and Abraham Morrison, is probably best known today for the overlay hard rubber pens that it produced in the 1910s and 1920s, with some production continuing into the 1930s. Shown here are two typical Morrison pens from the late 1910s or early 1920s, one with a gold-filled chased overlay and one with a sterling silver filigree overlay. There were also plain styles. All three styles were produced with sterling silver and gold filled overlays, in both clip-style and ringtop models. Gold-filled overlays were imprinted 1/40 14K, indicating a very thin layer of gold alloy. Early pens had gold nibs; but once stainless steel became available around 1926, later production was largely fitted with untipped steel nibs (possibly a consequence of the Great Depression).

fountain pen
fountain pen
Note
Note
Some images on this page can be clicked or tapped to display magnified versions for more detail. When you mouse over a clickable image, the image will give a visual indication by growing a little, and the mouse pointer will change to a magnifying glass. On a touchscreen device, touch and hold your finger on the image briefly to see if it reacts. If it does, you can tap it.

In 1933, Morrison registered the “Black Beauty” name and logo for a black hard rubber pen that had probably been in production for some time before the name was registered. Fitted with a hemispherical softly marbled green and gold celluloid cap crown, narrow-wide-narrow cap bands, and a 14K Morrison No 6 nib, the Black Beauty was an attractive and well made pen (shown below, upper). Before the United States entered World War II, however, it had become a chased celluloid model with a Morrison No 7 untipped steel nib (below, lower), with its ornamental design covered by U.S. Patent No D124,609 (issued to Louis Morrison on January 14, 1941).

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

In April 1938, there emerged a new model called the Star Series. The Star Series pens were distinguished by a cap crown that appeared to be slashed at an angle, with a piece of a different color filling the cut-off end. The exposed face of the inserted piece was elliptical; whether someone at Morrison wanted to emulate a cameo and designed it that way or realized after the design was proposed that its shape resembled that of a cameo, the result was that “Cameo Top” became a Morrison trademark (Registered U.S. Trademark No 374,136), and Cameo Top pens flowed from the company’s factory until some time after World War II. Shown here are two vest-pocket-sized Star Series pens, an NOS example in Chinese Yellow and an example in black. Both have tipped steel nibs; the thin gold plating on the black pens’s nib is completely worn away.

Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen

The Cameo Top design might have been inspired by the pens of the Inkpak company (dissolved in December 1938), whose pens had featured a cap crown that was slashed, although at a somewhat less dramatic angle:

Fountain pen

The Patriot’s Beginnings

LogoThe earliest pen models I’ve found that are actually marked “The Patriot” (Registered U.S. Trademark No 387,493; logo artwork from the registration certificate illustrated to the right) were introduced in September 1940. The Patriots shown here, which might have been a stopgap to get the Patriot name into the marketplace as quickly as possible, match the design of a model that had appeared before the advent of the Cameo Top design. That pen, the uppermost of the three shown here, appears to have been made, like the Black Beauty, in black only. Like many other pens of the 1930s, it was modeled along the general lines of Sheaffer’s Balance. Like the later Black Beauty shown above, this model was made of chased celluloid, and that feature carried through to the Patriot. The larger pens shown here originally had untipped Morrison No 7 steel nibs like the contemporaneous Black Beauty. For lack of a better designation, I refer to this design as the “Protopatriot.”

Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen

The Arrival of the Real Deal

In 1941, Morrison abandoned the torpedo-shaped “Protopatriot” for a new Patriot. Borrowing its smooth Cameo Top body design from the Star Series (which was patterned after the earlier Black Beauty), the “real” Patriot appeared in in versions to honor the Army, Navy, Air Corps, and Marines. There are rumors of a Coast Guard Patriot, but I have never seen any credible reference to a “Coastie” version. That the Air Corps model was named as it was, despite the fact that the Army Air Corps had become the Army Air Forces in June 1941, suggests that Morrison had already begun producing these pens several months before the U.S. entered World War II. Initial production featured a water-slide decal transfer on the Cameo Top as illustrated here by an Army pen.

Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen
Pen lent by Mark Recchia

Soon after the appearance of the pen shown above, Morrison replaced the water-slide decal with a gold-plated crest cast in sterling silver. Production continued with lever fillers and steel nibs until the U.S. entered World War II. Shown here are two crested Army pens from this period, in standard and small sizes:

fountain pen
Pen lent by Tim Holl
fountain pen

Restrictions on the use of iron and steel began in January 1942, and pen manufacturers responded by removing steel from their pens wherever reasonable. Some manufacturers that had been making pens with steel nibs — including Morrison — suddenly began producing the same models with 14K gold nibs instead of steel. The vast majority of extant Patriots have gold nibs that appear to have been made by the Grieshaber Pen Company (later Graphomatic, Inc.): Grieshaber was a known suppler of high-quality gold nibs, and except for their imprints, the Patriot nibs are identical to the nibs found in the Graphomatic Inkmaker and Colonel Deluxe, introduced in 1942, and also in the Wearever Pacemaker, which was introduced in 1944.

Rationing of rubber articles began with tires in January 1942, but the restrictions were not serious, and Morrison continued to produce lever-filling pens (now fitted with gold nibs). When further restrictions on rubber were enacted in October 1942, however, the company could no longer get enough rubber sacs to make lever fillers; to keep production going, Morrison’s engineers developed the syringe-filling Patriot. Considered on its own merits, the syringe-filling design is superior to the lever-filler in almost every respect, but Morrison shipped at least some of these pens with an apologetic note explaining that they were a wartime exigency.

Here are Army, Navy, Air Corps, and Marine Corps Patriots, presented in order of their rarity:

Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen
Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen
Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen
Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen

The Army and Navy pens shown here have gold nibs imprinted MORRISON 14 KT U.S.A. The Air Corps and Marine Corps pens have nibs imprinted 14K MADE IN U.S.A.

All four of the pens uillustrated above are syringe (“Post”) fillers, with the entire barrel screwing off to expose the filling unit — which Morrison’s instruction sheet calls the Visual Vacuum Filler. Each has the crest of its service, cast in sterling silver and gold plated, glued to the sloped Cameo Top cap crown. Some early emblems were enameled; the enameled Army emblem, for example, shows red, white, and blue in the Eagle’s shield.

fountain pen filler

The engineering behind the aesthetically pleasing syringe-filler design is obvious: the new filler design eliminated the metal lever, snap ring, and pressure bar as well as the operations associated with cutting the lever slot and snap-ring groove. Threading the section joint and gluing the filler’s reservoir to the sac nipple made the transition very easy and economical. Overall, re-engineering costs were held to an absolute minimum. Except for its two sliding seal gaskets (one of cork and one of a waterproof clay-impregnated material colored red), the filler unit itself is made entirely of celluloid. (The filler illustrated above has had its seals replaced with O-rings.)

The syringe-filling Patriot lived up to its name when it came to conserving critical war resources. Initially, its filler reduced rubber consumption, and when further restrictions on rubber were enacted in October 1942, Morrison replaced the hard rubber section and feed with black celluloid. Except for the filler’s two gaskets and the necessary metal parts, the entire pen was at that point made of celluloid. Thus, syringe-filling pens with hard rubber sections were probably made using sections from existing stock. Further identifying characteristics of early syringe fillers, illustrated below, are the presence of steel nibs and the design of the plunger shaft, which has no screw-threaded knob but instead is just necked to provide a decorative finger hold.

fountain pen filler

One of the less common variants among the Patriots honoring the four U.S. services is the one shown here, an Army set that was apparently made in late 1942, after the syringe filler went into production but early enough that it has a streamlined gripping section like the one illustrated above (although its nib is gold). Of particular interest on this set are the enameled cap-crown emblems. Both are vermeil rather than flash-plated silver. They are much cleaner castings than other examples, and the gold layer is more durable than usual. The emblem shown here is from the pen.

Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen
Fountain pen

On the Home Front

Recognition for American mothers was an important aspect of patriotism. Women whose sons or daughters were in the service were encouraged to join the national Blue Star Mothers organization (conceived by U.S. Army Captain George Humphrey Maines and founded in Flint, Michigan, in February 1942) and display Blue Star Mothers placards in their home windows. There were also pins and ribbons decorated with the Blue Star Mothers design, a blue five-pointed star on a white background, enclosed in a red rectangular border. Morrison got in on the act by producing a Blue Star Mothers “Victory” pen whose cap crown emblem superimposed the design over a large letter V. The pen shown here appears to have been fitted with chrome-plated furniture. The cap crown emblem, as with other Patriots, is silver, in this case enhanced with intarsia enameling.

Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen

Morrison also made Patriots to honor the American Legion, a patriotic veterans’ organization chartered by Congress in 1919, with a mission of service to veterans, servicemembers, and communities.

Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen

What Is It?

The Patriot shown below is a puzzle. A lever-filler, it was manufactured in 1942, after Morrison replaced its No 7 steel nibs with 14K gold but before the company converted production to the Visible Vacuum filler in response to new and stringent restrictions on rubber usage laid down in Octobr. Its emblem, a star within a heart, suggests a tribute to America’s Gold Star Mothers, who had lost sons or daughters killed in the war, or perhaps to honor troops who had sustained wounds and been awarded received the Purple Heart. There are, however, anomalies that call its provenance into question.

Gold Star Mothers ?
Fountain pen

The Patriot shown below, which lacks its emblem, provides a convincing argument that the pen above was a “real” Patriot. This second pen was made either later in 1942, after the adoption of the syringe filler, or in 1943, before Morrison began simplifying the Patriot’s design as described below under When Was It Made? This pen’s syringe filler establishes that it could not have been made at the same time as the one above, but its Cameo Top shows the same kind of modification, including the hole in the Cameo Top and identifiably heart-shaped residue and celluloid damage from the glue used to secure the emblem.

Gold Star Mothers ?
Fountain pen

The conclusion I draw from these two pens is that they are correct examples of an otherwise unknown Patriot variant, possibly a custom version for a particular dealer. Absent more information, however, it is impossible to name the organization honored.

Dressing It Down

Apparently it was felt that some people might prefer not to flaunt a pen as flashy as a crested Patriot. At least one such person was an infantryman named Lester M. Rolf, who took this early 1942 Army Patriot set to war with him, having pried the emblems off the cap crowns:

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

Tragically, S/Sgt. Lester Rolf was killed on January 18, 1945, in the Battle of the Bulge.

To sell to Rolf and others of the same mind, Morrison developed a series of crestless Patriots that were the same as the crested versions except for the design of the cap crown. Crestless pens in Olive Drab had black cap crowns, and crestless black pens were made with black or Olive Drab cap crowns, possibly at different times. Here is a crestless black Patriot:

Fountain pen

As illustrated below, the crestless Patriot also appeared in colors more oriented to civilian use: midnight blue, burgundy, and battleship gray. These pens, although physically identical to the crestless black and Olive Drab pens, are not marked “The Patriot”.

Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen

The lower of the two gray pens illustrated here is something of an oddity. Instead of the usual cap crown that was made in the same color as the cap body and blended to create a seamless surface, this pen has a clear cap crown with black beneath, and the clear part projects slightly. (See the photos below; note that the clear part in the domed-design pen has begun to crystallize.) This design might have been intended to provide a place for a water-slide decal crest or other decoration. I know of no other examples of this variant; all the other gray pens I have seen were made to the standard design.

Patriot cap crown
Standard Design
Patriot cap crown
Domed Design

Brothers in Arms

The U.S.A. did not fight World War II alone, and Morrison appears to have taken notice of that fact. Not only did the torpedo-shaped Patriot exist before the war, but the company also made a Cameo Top lever-filler honoring the Lend-Lease program under which America, still ostensibly neutral, declared itself the Arsenal of Democracy and shipped millions of tons of war matériel to the Allied belligerents (primarily Great Britain and, after the launching of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, the Soviet Union). The Lend-Lease pen, orange in color and fitted with a Morrison No 7 untipped steel nib, bore on its cap crown a water-slide decal showing the crossed flags of the United States and the United Kingdom encircled by the words FREEDOM OF DEMOCRACY. The Lend-Lease pen shown here is in “mint” condition, with its original store-display sticker. The emblem shown here is from the pen; the matching pencil has only a U.S. flag on the cap crown.

Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen
Fountain pen

The next pen is a Patriot-marked Cameo Top version with a plain white face. This pen once had a water-slide decal on the crown; it might have been a Lend-Lease pen, identical to the orange one shown above except for the colors of the celluloid, or it might have borne some other design. The lever-filling design and the broad cap band suggest that it was roughly contemporaneous with the Lend-Lease and water-slide decal decorated military pens.

Fountain pen

Morrison made a few pen models to honor America’s allies. Some of these pens are marked as Patriots, while others are not. The cap bears a Black Beauty-style hemispherical crown decorated with the Red, White, and Blue roundel of Britain’s Royal Air Force. The lever-filling pen shown here has a gold-plated untipped steel nib. The later syringe filler is fitted with an IRIDIUM TIPPED U.S.A. steel nib that shows traces of plating toward its base. The untipped variety appears to have been more common before Morrison switched to gold.

Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen
Fountain pen

There was a lever-filling Patriot with the same exact black-banded white hemispherical crown that had been used earlier on the ’30s Black Beauty. This version might have been a “quick and dirty” way to honor the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, but this is only conjecture, as the FAA’s roundel, like that of the RAF, actually had a blue border, not black, with a red disk in the center of the white circle. The red disk was removed when the Royal Navy deployed to the Pacific in 1944, but that was several years after the lever-filling pen shown here was made.

Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen

There was also a black pen with the Red, White, and Blue roundel. This model could have been a later version of the Fleet Air Arm pen, or it could have been made to honor the men of the RAF’s Bomber Command, who flew at night. This version was made in both men’s (clip-style) and ladies’ (ringtop) versions; the ringtop pen shown here is chased:

Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen
Fountain pen

Getting Personal

At least two methods of personalization were developed for the Patriot:

After the War

In many areas of American life, the things of war disappeared very quickly after the end of World War II. One thing that did not disappear immediately was the Patriot. The three pens shown below are Patriots that were made after war.

The first of these pens is immediately recognizable as an Army Patriot. Made very soon after the end of the war, it still has the wartime syringe filler and a gold-plated sterling Army crest cemented to the cameo. The clip is a new, more modern design that also appeared on several other Morrison models in the ensuing years. With the end of the war came a general lifting of restrictions on critical war resources, and Morrison immediately ceased using gold nibs in the Patriot. The nib in this pen is an unplated steel nib, with tipping, in a smaller size than had used before and during the war.

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

The second pen is a blue Patriot-marked example. The Cameo Top face is white like that of the black pen immediately following the Lend-Lease pen above. It is not clear what type of emblem this pen bore on its cameo. There is also no indication of what service it honored, but the use of this bright blue suggests that the service might have been the U.S. Air Force, which had been the U.S. Army Air Forces but was established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on September 18, 1947. Although this pen looks the same as its predecessors, there are variations. It brought back the prewar lever-filler, steel nib, and hard rubber feed while retaining a plastic section that was about " (0.8 mm) shorter and more sharply tapered than before.

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

I have no information on when Patriot production finally stopped, but the pen clearly hung around long enough to undergo a restyling beyond the slight changes shown above. The pen shown below is a Navy Patriot. The section and the back end of the barrel are streamlined like, but smaller in diameter than, those of the Monogram, and the untipped nib is smaller than that on the Monogram. The Navy’s Fouled Anchor crest is now a water-slide decal. This version of the Patriot has an old-style clip, as does the Monogram, and it is not possible to determine whether it preceded or followed the blue Patriot above.

Prewar Army Decal
Fountain pen
Fountain pen

Rogues’ Gallery

Here are clear photos of the cap crowns on all of the Cameo Top and hemispherical Patriot variants discussed and illustrated in this article, except for the two with blank white Cameo Top faces.

Patriot cap crown
Army (prewar)
Patriot cap crown
Army
Patriot cap crown
Army Enameled
Patriot cap crown
Navy
Patriot cap crown
Air Corps
Patriot cap crown
Marines
Patriot cap crown
Blue Star Mothers
Patriot cap crown
Gold Star Mothers (?)
Patriot cap crown
American Legion
Patriot cap crown
Lend-Lease
Patriot cap crown
Royal Air Force
Patriot cap crown
Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy (Early)
Patriot cap crown
Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy (Late)
Patriot cap crown
Decal Personalized, Initials H. S.
Patriot cap crown
Plain Cameo-Top Plaque
  Patriot cap crown
Navy (postwar)
 

When Was It Made?

I have no documentation giving the production dates of the Patriot, but there are possible clues to the approximate time when a given pen was made. During its production life, the Patriot underwent several more or less subtle changes in its appearance, as listed here:

  • On pens made before August 2, 1941, when steel was officially restricted to government use, or as soon thereafter as a given manufacturer’s pre-existing stocks ran out, with a final cutoff of January 15, 1942: Gold-plated No 7 MORRISON-imprinted untipped steel nibs. Surprisingly, this nib also appeared after the war on the Morrison Monogram.

  • As above: Gold-plated No 7 MORRISON-imprinted tipped steel nibs.

  • From mid-January 1942 until restrictions on steel were lifted at the end of the war: 14K gold nibs imprinted MORRISON/ 14 KT / N.Y., No 7 size but not so imprinted.

  • As above: 14K gold nibs imprinted 14 KT / MADE IN U.S.A., No 7 size but not so imprinted.

  • As above, on the smaller wartime model: No 4 gold nibs imprinted WARRANTED / 14 KT / 4. (Although there was a smaller model in the prewar Cameo Top Star Series, I have no information about the existence of a smaller Cameo Top Patriot before or after the war.)

  • After restrictions on steel were lifted at the end of the war: No 5 unplated tipped steel nibs imprinted REGALOY / TIPPED / 5 / MADE IN U.S.A.

  • As above, on Patriot models with the streamlined section: Gold-plated untipped steel nibs imprinted MORRISON / PEN / REG. U.S. / PAT. OFF., No 4 size but not so imprinted.

Other Variants

In addition to the variants listed above, there are further differences that do not contribute information suggestive of dates. Listed here are those that I have seen.

On the Barrel: “The Patriot” Imprint — or Lack Thereof

As noted earlier, crestless Patriots in the civilian-oriented colors do not have the Patriot logo imprinted on their barrels. It might be reasonable to assume that any Patriot-style pen without the logo must have started life as a crestless model and that if it now has a crested cap, it must be a marriage. This assumption, however is not valid. I have seen an Army set with a silkscreened imprint reading CHICAGO HERALD-AMERICAN on both pieces, with the pen (but not the pencil) lacking the Patriot logo. The Marine Corps pen shown in this article was NOS when I acquired it, new in the box, still wrapped in the original cellophane, with both the pen and the pencil lacking the logo. The existence of these sets is irrefutable proof that although such a pen could be a marriage, it could equally well have been factory production.

Made for the U.S. Military?

In the first decade of the 21s century, the Internet hosted an oft-repeated legend to the effect that the Patriot was made by a Japanese company:

A 1942 Military Fountain Pen manufactured by the Morrison Pen Company founded in 1918 as the Kikaku Seisakusho company, the companys [sic] name was changed in 1933 to the Morrison Company. This fountain pen was made specifically to comply with the requirements of the United States Army.

Aside from the ridiculous idea that a Japanese company would be making pens for the U.S. military in 1942, there are actually solid facts to disprove this preposterous tale:

Marketing of the Patriot, as for many other products, leaned heavily toward the idea that this pen was something you could buy to show your support for a friend or loved one in uniform. Recognizing that soldiers or sailors would have to carry their Patriots in their duffel bags or sea bags, Morrison and other manufacturers packaged pen-and-pencil sets as service sets, with real leather pouch cases that would protect the pen and pencil while keeping them together. Shown here is a Marine Corps service set with its pouch.

Fountain pen/mechanical pencil set

The End of the Patriot

I have not been able to discover when Morrison discontinued the Patriot. The 1961–1963 Buyers Index issue, Part 2 of the March 1961 issue of Office Appliances Magazine, lists Patriot FP/MP sets on page 359 as still available. The Morrison Fountain Pen Company itself appears to have ceased operation sometime in the late 1960s.

Collectible? Yes, but with Caveats

Patriots are not so common as they once were, but with some exceptions they are not so hard to obtain as to be out of reach for the average collector. The Army and Navy versions are far more common than the Air Corps and Marine Corps; the latter two are definitely scarce, while most other cameo Top versions are truly rare. Crestless pens fall in the middle of the scarcity scale. Perhaps more difficult than finding them, however, is getting the syringe-filling versions into working order. Restoration is possible, but the filling system was not designed to be reparable, and for this reason there are few restorers working today who handle these Patriots.

Adding to the annoyance and difficulty of proper restoration is the fact that many celluloid Patriot caps, especially wartime examples, have shrunk enough to make the cap bands loose, sometimes so loose that they can be worked off easily or even fall off of their own accord. Although these pens’ cap bands can be resecured with various adhesives or crack fillers, the proper repair is to swage the cap band until it again fits into the groove in the cap. This process is neither easy nor free of risk to the cap band itself.



Notes:
  1. Morrison’s Black Beauty logo featured a horse’s head. Applied for in April 1933, this trademark was likely an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the new Black Beauty film released that month.  Return

  2. Along with many people both in and out of the military, Morrison used the “Air Corps” name throughout the war despite the fact that the U.S. Army Air Corps had been officially renamed the U.S. Army Air Forces on June 20, 1941.  Return

  3. No secret was made of the Lend-Lease program, and Germany objected strongly to it. America’s pseudo-neutral stance was a contributing factor in the torpedoing of the destroyer USS Reuben James by the German submarine U-552 on 31 October 1941, about a month before America’s official entry into the war.  Return

  4. U.S. aircraft insignia 1919–1942The Fleet Air Arm’s removal of the red center from its roundel paralleled an earlier change in the U.S. Army Air Forces’ insignia. When America entered the war, its planes bore the insignia shown here. It was thought that in the heat of battle, the red disk in the center of the star was being mistaken for the Japanese Hinomaru (日の丸, Circle of the Sun, known to fighting Americans as the “meatball”), resulting in some American planes’ being shot down by “friendly fire.” By May 1942 the disk had been removed from all U.S. aircraft serving in the Pacific.  Return

  5. The Herald-American was a Hearst newspaper, published under that name from August 26, 1939 to April 5, 1953. Prior to that period, it was called the Herald-Examiner, and it subsequently became the Chicago American.  Return

  6. At one time, this description appeared, identically worded, on several antique mall-type Web sites. I copied it from the now-defunct Fountain Pen Emporium site; but it disappeared from that site when the pen was sold, some time before the site was taken down.  Return


The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information. My thanks to Tim Holl for the loan of his lever-filling crested Army Patriot and for contributing some of the information in this profile. Thanks also to Mark Recchia for the loan of his lever-filling water-slide-transfer Army Patriot.

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