Wedgwood, first incorporated in 1895 as Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd,is a fine china, porcelain, and luxury accessories manufacturer that was founded on 1 May 1759 by the English potter and entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood. It was rapidly successful and was soon one of the largest manufacturers of Staffordshire pottery, "a firm that has done more to spread the knowledge and enhance the reputation of British ceramic art than any other manufacturer", exporting across Europe as far as Russia, and to the Americas. It was especially successful at producing fine earthenware and stonewares that were accepted as equivalent in quality to porcelain (which Wedgwood only made later) but were considerably cheaper.
Wedgwood is especially associated with the "dry-bodied" (unglazed) stoneware Jasperware in contrasting colours, and in particular that in "Wedgwood blue" and white, always much the most popular colours, though there are several others. Jasperware has been made continuously by the firm since 1775, and also much imitated. In the 18th century, however, it was table china in the refined earthenware creamware that represented most of the sales and profits.
In the later 19th century it returned to being a leader in design and technical innovation, as well as continuing to make many of the older styles. Despite increasing local competition in its export markets, the business continued to flourish in the 19th and early 20th centuries, remaining in the hands of the Wedgwood family, but after World War II it began to contract, along with the rest of the English pottery industry.
After buying a number of other Staffordshire ceramics companies, in 1987 Wedgwood merged with Waterford Crystal to create Waterford Wedgwood plc, an Ireland-based luxury brands group. After a 2009 purchase by KPS Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, the group became known as WWRD Holdings Limited, an acronym for "Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton". This was acquired in July 2015 by Fiskars, a Finnish consumer goods company.
Josiah Wedgwood (1730–95), came from an established family of potters, and trained with his elder brother.He was in partnership with the leading potter Thomas Whieldon from 1754 until 1759, when a new green ceramic glaze he had developed encouraged him to start a new business on his own. Relatives leased him the Ivy House in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, and his marriage to Sarah Wedgwood, a distant cousin with a sizable dowry, helped him launch his new venture.
Wedgwood led "an extensive and systematic programme of experiment",and in 1765 created a new variety of creamware, a fine glazed earthenware, which was the main body used for his tablewares thereafter. After he supplied her with a teaset for twelve the same year, Queen Charlotte gave official permission to call it "Queen's Ware" (from 1767). This new form, perfected as white pearlware (from 1780), sold extremely well across Europe, and to America. It had the additional advantage of being relatively light, saving on transport costs and import tariffs in foreign markets. It caused considerable disruption to the makers of European faience and delftware, then the main European tableware bodies; some went out of business and others adopted English-style bodies themselves. The Pont-aux-Choux factory near Paris was one of the first to do so; in France creamware was known as faience fine, in Italy terraglia.
Wedgwood developed a number of further industrial innovations for his company, notably a way of measuring kiln temperatures accurately, and several new ceramic bodies including the "dry-body" stonewares, "black basalt" (by 1769), caneware and jasperware (1770s), all designed to be sold unglazed, like "biscuit porcelain".
In 1766, Wedgwood bought a large Staffordshire estate, which he renamed Etruria , as both a home and factory site; the factory was producing from 1769, initially making ornamental wares, while the "useful" tablewares were still made in Burslem.
In 1769 Wedgwood established a partnership with Thomas Bentley, who soon moved to London and ran the operations there. Only the "ornamental" wares such as vases are marked "Wedgwood & Bentley" and those so marked are at an extra level of quality. The extensive correspondence between Wedgwood and Bentley, who was from a landowning background, show Wedgwood often relied on his advice on artistic questions. Wedgwood felt the loss keenly when Bentley died in 1780.
Wedgwood's slightly younger friend, William Greatbatch, had followed a similar career path, training with Whieldon and then starting his own firm around 1762. He was a fine modeller, especially of moulds for tablewares, and probably did most of Wedgwood's earlier moulds as an outside contractor. After some twenty years, Greatbatch's firm went under in 1782, and by 1786 he was a Wedgwood employee, continuing for over twenty years until he retired in 1807, on generous terms specified in Wedgwood's will. In the early period he seems also to have acted as agent for Wedgwood on trips to London,and after Wedgwood's retirement he may have in effect managed the Etruria works.
Wedgwood was an early adopter of the English invention of transfer printing, which allowed printed designs, for long only in a single colour, that were far cheaper than hand-painting. Hand-painting was still used, the two techniques often being combined, with painted borders surrounding a printed figure scene. From 1761 wares were shipped to Liverpool for the specialist firm of Sadler and Green to print;later this was done in-house at Stoke.
From 1769 Wedgwood maintained a workshop for overglaze enamel painting by hand in Little Cheyne Row in Chelsea, London,where skilled painters were easier to find. The pieces received a light second firing to fix the enamels in a small muffle kiln; this work was also later moved to Stoke. There was also a showroom and shop in Portland House, 12 Greek Street, Soho, London. Painting included border patterns or bands and relatively straightforward floral motifs on tableware. Complicated figure scenes and landscapes in painted enamels were generally reserved for the most expensive "ornaments" like vases, but transfer printed items had these.
The Frog Service is a large dinner and dessert service made by Wedgwood for Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, and completed in 1774. The service had fifty settings, and 944 pieces were ordered, 680 for the dinner service and 264 for the dessert.Although Wedgwood was already transfer printing many tablewares, this was entirely hand-painted in Chelsea in monochrome, with English views copied from prints and drawings; the final appearance was not dissimilar to transfer printing, but each image was unique. Also at Catherine's request, each piece carries a green frog. Although Wedgwood was paid just over £2,700 he barely made a profit, but milked the prestige of the commission, exhibiting the service in his London showroom before delivery.
Wedgwood's best known product is Jasperware, created to look like ancient Roman cameo glass, itself imitating cameo gems. The most popular jasperware colour has always been "Wedgwood blue" (a darker shade is sometimes called "Portland Blue"), an innovation that required experiments with more than 3,000 samples. In recognition of the importance of his pyrometric beads (pyrometer), Josiah Wedgwood was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1783. In recent years, the Wedgwood Prestige collection continued to sell replicas of the original designs, as well as modern neo-classical style jasperware.
The main Wedgwood motifs in jasperware, and the other dry-bodied stonewares, were decorative designs that were highly influenced by the ancient cultures being studied and rediscovered at that time, especially as Great Britain was expanding its empire. Many motifs were taken from ancient mythologies: Roman, Greek and Egyptian. Meanwhile, archaeological fever caught the imagination of many artists. Nothing could have been more suitable to satisfy this huge business demand than to produce replicas of ancient artefacts. From 1787 to 1794 Wedgwood even ran a studio in Rome, where young Neoclassical artists were in abundance, producing wax models for reliefs, often to designs sent from England. The most famous design is Wedgwood's copy of the Portland Vase, a famous Roman vase now in the British Museum, which was lent to Wedgwood to copy.
Wedgwood developed other dry-bodied stonewares, meaning that they were sold unglazed. The first of these was what he called "basaltes", now more often "black basalt ware" or just basalt ware, perfected by 1769. This was a tough body in solid black, much used for classical revival styles.Wedgwood developed an attractive reddish stoneware he called rosso antico ("ancient red") This was often combined with black basalt. This was followed by caneware or bamboo ware, the same colour as bamboo and often modelled to look as though objects were made of the plant; first introduced in 1770, but mostly used between 1785 and 1810.
Generally Wedgwood avoided the typical type of Staffordshire figures, white earthenware standing figurines of people or animals that by about 1770 were usually brightly painted, though sometimes sold in plain glazed white. These imitated rather successfully the porcelain figures pioneered by Meissen porcelain, a style which by about 1770 was being produced by the majority of porcelain factories, on the continent and in Britain. Though Staffordshire figures fell precipitously in price and quality after about 1820, in the 18th century many were still well-modelled and carefully painted.
Instead Wedgwood concentrated on more sculptural figures, and produced many busts or small relief portrait plaques of celebrities, both types of high quality. The subjects were generally notably serious: politicians and royalty, famous scientists and writers. Many were small, with the oval shape usual in the painted portrait miniature; others were larger. They were probably generally intended for framing; many examples still retain their frames.
Many subjects reflected Wedgwood's religious and political views, Unitarian and somewhat Radical respectively,in particular what is probably the best-known Wedgwood relief, the abolitionist design Am I Not a Man and a Brother?, the basic design of which is usually credited to Wedgwood, although others drew and sculpted the final versions. This appeared in many formats in print and pottery from about 1786, and was very widely distributed, often given away.
In addition plaques of varying sizes, most in jasperware, caught the fashion for Neoclassicism, with a great variety of classical subjects, but mostly avoiding nudity. The smaller ones were intended to be set in jewellery, sometimes in steel by Matthew Boulton's factory, and larger sizes might be framed for hanging, or inset in architectural features like fireplace mantels, mouldings and furniture. Smallest of all were many button designs.
The firm lost some momentum after the deaths of Bentley in 1780 and the retirement of Josiah Wedgwood in 1790 (he died in 1795). By 1800 it had about 300 employees in Staffordshire. The Napoleonic Wars made exporting to Europe impossible for long periods, and left export markets in disarray. Thomas Byerley, Josiah's nephew, became a partner and was mainly in charge for some years, as Josiah's sons John, known as Jack, and Josiah II ("Joss"), who joined the firm only on Josiah I's retirement, had developed other interests, in particular horticulture. After Waterloo in 1815, there was a dramatic drop in the vital exports to America. Byerley's death in 1810 forced the brothers to confront the reality of the financial situation, as they needed to buy out his widow. Between the partners and other debtors, the firm was owed some £67,000, a huge sum. Joss bought Jack out, and continued as sole owner.
Wedgwood continued to grow under Jack and his son Francis Wedgwood, and by 1859 the factory had 445 employees. As well as updated versions of wares from the previous century, bathroom ceramics such as sinks and lavatories had been important in recent decades, and Wedgwood's reputation for technical and design innovation had sunk considerably. However, they did introduce porcelain (see below), lustre ware by 1810, a form of Parian ware they called "Carrara" in 1848, and a "Stone China" from about 1827, the last of which was not especially successful. Neoclassicism was now less fashionable, and one response was to add floral enamels to black basalt wares from around 1805. Godfrey Wedgwood, Josiah I's great-grandson became a partner in 1859, and had considerable success reviving the firm in both these areas,in what was generally a successful period for British pottery.
Wedgwood's first decades of success came from producing wares that looked very like porcelain, and had broadly the same qualities, though not quite as tough, nor as translucent. During Josiah's lifetime and some time afterwards Wedgwood did not make porcelain itself. European factories had increasing success with porcelain, both soft-paste in England and France, and hard-paste mostly in Germany, which were still competing with Japanese and Chinese export porcelain, which were very popular, though expensive, in Europe. Towards the end of the 18th century other Staffordshire manufacturers introduced bone china as an alternative to translucent and delicate Chinese porcelain.
By 1811 Byerley, as manager of the London shop, wrote back to Stoke that "Every day we are asked for China Tea Ware—our sales of it would be immense if we had any—Earthenware Teaware is quite out of fashion...", and in response in 1812 Wedgwood first produced their own bone china, with hand-painting.However West End taste did not perhaps represent all of Wedgwood's markets, and it was not the huge commercial success promised, and after thinking of doing so in 1814, the firm finally stopped making it in 1822. But when revived in 1878 it eventually became an important part of production.
From very early on Josiah Wedgwood was determined to maintain high artistic standards, which was an important part of his efforts to appeal to the top end of the market with pottery rather than porcelain wares. He relied considerably on Bentley in London in this, as is clear from their correspondence. As with other potteries, the designs of prints were very often copied.
Josiah Wedgwood was also a patriarch of the Darwin–Wedgwood family. Many of his descendants were closely involved in the management of the company down to the time of the merger with the Waterford Company:
Ralph Wedgwood, presumably a cousin, made high quality wares in Burslem from c. 1790 until probably 1796, marked "Wedgwood & Co", a name never used by the main firm. He then joined William Tomlinson & Co., a firm in Yorkshire, who promptly dropped their own name, using "Wedgwood & Co" until he left in 1801. That name was revived by Enoch Wedgwood (1813–1879), a distant cousin of the first Josiah, who used Wedgwood & Co, starting in 1860.It was taken over by Josiah Wedgwood & Sons in 1980.
Other potters used blatantly misleading marks: "Wedgewood", "Vedgwood", "J Wedg Wood", all on inferior wares.
In 1968, Wedgwood purchased many other Staffordshire potteries including Mason's Ironstone, Johnson Brothers, Royal Tuscan, William Adams & Sons, J. & G. Meakin and Crown Staffordshire. In 1979, Waterford Wedgwood purchased the Franciscan Ceramics division of Interpace in the United States. The Los Angeles plant closed in 1984 and production of the Franciscan brand was moved to Johnson Brothers in Britain. In 1986, Waterford Glass Group plc purchased Wedgwood plc, forming the company Waterford Wedgwood plc.
In 1986, Waterford Glass Group plc purchased Wedgwood plc for US$360 million, with Wedgwood delivering a US$38.7 million profit in 1998 (while Waterford itself lost $28.9 million), after which the group was renamed Waterford Wedgwood plc. From early 1987 to early 1989, the CEO was Patrick Byrne, previously of Ford, who then became CEO of the whole group. During this time, he sold off non-core businesses and reduced the range of Wedgwood patterns from over 400 to around 240. In the late 1990s, the CEO was Brian Patterson. From 1 January 2001, the Deputy CEO was Tony O'Reilly, Junior, who was appointed CEO in November of the same year and resigned in September 2005. He was succeeded by the then-president of Wedgwood USA, Moira Gavin, up until the company went into administration in 2009.
In 2001, Wedgwood launched a collaboration with designer Jasper Conran, which started with a white fine bone china collection then expanded to include seven patterns. In March 2009, KPS Capital Partners acquired the Waterford Wedgwood group assets. Assets including Wedgwood, Waterford and Royal Doulton were placed into WWRD Holdings Limited.
On 5 January 2009, following years of financial problems at group level, and after a share placement failed during the global financial crisis of 2008, Waterford Wedgwood was placed into administration on a "going concern" basis, with 1,800 employees remaining. On 27 February 2009, Waterford Wedgwood's receiver Deloitte announced that the New York-based private equity firm KPS Capital Partners had purchased certain Irish and UK assets of Waterford Wedgwood, and the assets of its Irish and UK subsidiaries. KPS Capital Partners placed Wedgwood into a group of companies known as WWRD, an abbreviation for "Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton".
In May 2015, Fiskars, a Finnish maker of home products, agreed to buy 100% of the holdings of WWRD.On 2 July 2015, the acquisition of WWRD by Fiskars was completed, including the brands Waterford, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Royal Albert and Rogaška. The acquisition was approved by the US antitrust authorities. In 2015 there were complaints of misleading labelling, in that products made in the company's Indonesian factory were sold labelled "Wedgwood England".
Wedgwood's founder wrote as early as 1774 that he wished he had preserved samples of all the company's works, and he began to do so. The first formal museum was opened in May 1906, with a curator named Isaac Cook, at the main (Etruria) works. The contents of the museum were stored for the duration of the Second World War and relaunched in a gallery at the new Barlaston factory in 1952. A new purpose-built visitor centre and museum was built in 1975 and remodelled in 1985, with pieces displayed near items from the old factory works in cabinets of similar period. A video theatre was added and a new gift shop, as well as an expanded demonstration area, where visitors could watch pottery being made. A further renovation costing £4.5 million was carried out in 2000, including access to the main factory itself.[ citation needed ]
Adjacent to the museum and visitor centre are a restaurant and tea room, serving on Wedgwood ware. The museum, managed by a dedicated trust, closed in 2000 and on 24 October 2008, it reopened in a new multimillion-pound building.
In June 2009, the Wedgwood Museum won a UK Art Fund Prize for Museums and Art Galleries for its displays of Wedgwood pottery, skills, designs and artefacts.In May 2011, the archive of the museum was inscribed in UNESCO's UK Memory of the World Register.
The collection with 80,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts, letters and photographs faced being sold off to help satisfy pension debts inherited when Waterford Wedgwood plc went into receivership in 2009. The Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, various trusts and businesses contributed donations to purchase the collection.On December 1 2014, the collection was purchased and donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The collection will continue to be on display at the Wedgwood Museum on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Minton Archive comprises papers and drawings of the designs, manufacture and production of the defunct pottery company Mintons. It was acquired by Waterford Wedgwood in 2005 along with other assets of the Royal Doulton group.At one time it seemed the Archive would become part of the Wedgwood collection. In the event, the Archive was presented by the Art Fund to the City of Stoke-on-Trent, but it was envisaged that some material would be displayed at Barlaston as well as the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
Wedgwood railway station was opened in 1940 to serve the Wedgwood complex in Barlaston.
The Wedgwood medallion was the most famous image of a black person in all of 18th-century art.
Josiah Wedgwood was an English potter and entrepreneur. He founded the Wedgwood company. He developed improved pottery bodies by a long process of systematic experimentation, and was the leader in the industrialisation of the manufacture of European pottery. "It was by intensifying the division of labour that Wedgwood brought about the reduction of cost which enabled his pottery to find markets in all parts of Britain, and also of Europe and America." The renewed classical enthusiasms of the late 1760s and early 1770s were of major importance to his sales promotion. His expensive goods were in much demand from the upper classes, while he used emulation effects to market cheaper sets to the rest of society. Every new invention that Wedgwood produced – green glaze, creamware, black basalt and jasperware – was quickly copied. Having once achieved efficiency in production, he obtained efficiencies in sales and distribution. His showrooms in London gave the public the chance to see his complete range of tableware.
The Etruria Works was a ceramics factory opened by Josiah Wedgwood in 1769 in a district of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, which he named Etruria. The factory ran for 180 years.
Thomas Whieldon was a significant English potter who played a leading role in the development of Staffordshire pottery.
Josiah Spode was an English potter and the founder of the English Spode pottery works which became famous for the high quality of its wares. He is often credited with the establishment of blue underglaze transfer printing in Staffordshire in 1781–84, and with the definition and introduction in c. 1789–91 of the improved formula for bone china which thereafter remained the standard for all English wares of this kind.
Waterford Crystal is a manufacturer of crystal, named after the city of Waterford, Ireland. The brand is owned by WWRD Group Holdings Ltd., a luxury goods group which also owns and operates the Wedgwood and Royal Doulton brands, and which was acquired on 2 July 2015 by the Fiskars Corporation.
Spode is an English brand of pottery and homewares produced by the company of the same name, which is based in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Spode was founded by Josiah Spode (1733–1797) in 1770, and was responsible for perfecting two extremely important techniques that were crucial to the worldwide success of the English pottery industry in the century to follow.
The Staffordshire Potteries is the industrial area encompassing the six towns, Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton that now make up the city of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England. North Staffordshire became a centre of ceramic production in the early 17th century, due to the local availability of clay, salt, lead and coal.
Creamware is a cream-coloured refined earthenware with a lead glaze over a pale body, known in France as faïence fine, in the Netherlands as Engels porselein, and in Italy as terraglia inglese. It was created about 1750 by the potters of Staffordshire, England, who refined the materials and techniques of salt-glazed earthenware towards a finer, thinner, whiter body with a brilliant glassy lead glaze, which proved so ideal for domestic ware that it supplanted white salt-glaze wares by about 1780. It was popular until the 1840s.
Biscuit porcelain, bisque porcelain or bisque is unglazed, white porcelain treated as a final product, with a matte appearance and texture to the touch. It has been widely used in European pottery, mainly for sculptural and decorative objects that are not tableware and so do not need a glaze for protection.
Jasperware, or jasper ware, is a type of pottery first developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s. Usually described as stoneware, it has an unglazed matte "biscuit" finish and is produced in a number of different colours, of which the most common and best known is a pale blue that has become known as Wedgwood Blue. Relief decorations in contrasting colours are characteristic of jasperware, giving a cameo effect. The reliefs are produced in moulds and applied to the ware as sprigs.
Waterford Wedgwood plc was a holding entity for a group of companies, headquartered in Ireland, which specialized in the manufacture of high quality china, porcelain, and glass. The group was dominated by Tony O'Reilly and his immediate family, as well as the family of O'Reilly's second wife, Chryss Goulandris, the two families together having had invested hundreds of millions of euros in it. The group's financial record was mixed, and significant cost-cutting had been ongoing for many years.
Royal Doulton is an English ceramic manufacturing company dating from 1815. Operating originally in Vauxhall, London, later moving to Lambeth, in 1882 it opened a factory in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, in the centre of English pottery. From the start the backbone of the business was a wide range of utilitarian wares, mostly stonewares, including storage jars, tankards and the like, and later extending to pipes for drains, lavatories and other bathroom ceramics. From 1853 to 1902 its wares were marked Doulton & Co., then from 1902, when a royal warrant was given, Royal Doulton.
Mintons was a major company in Staffordshire pottery, "Europe's leading ceramic factory during the Victorian era", an independent business from 1793 to 1968. It was a leader in ceramic design, working in a number of different ceramic bodies, decorative techniques, and "a glorious pot-pourri of styles - Rococo shapes with Oriental motifs, Classical shapes with Medieval designs and Art Nouveau borders were among the many wonderful concoctions". As well as pottery vessels and sculptures, the firm was a leading manufacturer of tiles and other architectural ceramics, producing work for both the Houses of Parliament and United States Capitol.
Sprigging or sprigged decoration is a technique for decorating pottery with low relief shapes made separately from the main body and applied to it before firing. Usually thin press moulded shapes are applied to greenware or bisque. The resulting pottery is termed sprigged ware, and the added piece is a "sprig". The technique may also be described by terms such as "applied relief decoration", especially in non-European pottery.
Pâte-sur-pâte is a French term meaning "paste on paste". It is a method of porcelain decoration in which a relief design is created on an unfired, unglazed body, usually with a coloured body, by applying successive layers of (usually) white porcelain slip with a brush. Once the main shape is built up, it is carved away to give fine detail, before the piece is fired. The work is very painstaking and may take weeks of adding extra layers and allowing them to harden before the next is applied.
Davenport Pottery was an English earthenware and porcelain manufacturer based in Longport, Staffordshire. It was in business, owned and run by the Davenport family, between 1794 and 1887, making mostly tablewares in the main types of Staffordshire pottery.
Franciscan Ceramics are ceramic tableware and tile products produced by Gladding, McBean & Co. in Los Angeles, California, from 1934–1962, International Pipe and Ceramics (Interpace) from 1962–1979, and Wedgwood from 1979-1983. Wedgwood closed the Los Angeles plant, and moved the production of dinnerware to England in 1983. Waterford Glass Group plc purchased Wedgwood in 1986, becoming Waterford Wedgwood. KPS Capital Partners acquired all of the holdings of Waterford Wedgwood in 2009. The Franciscan brand became part of a group of companies known as WWRD, an acronym for "Wedgwood Waterford Royal Doulton." WWRD continues to produce the Franciscan patterns Desert Rose and Apple.
The Ridgway family was one of the important dynasties manufacturing Staffordshire pottery, with a large number of family members and business names, over a period from the 1790s to the late 20th century. In their heyday in the mid-19th century there were several different potteries run by different branches of the family. Most of their wares were earthenware, but often of very high quality, but stoneware and bone china were also made. Many earlier pieces were unmarked and identifying them is difficult or impossible. Typically for Staffordshire, the various businesses, initially set up as partnerships, changed their official names rather frequently, and often used different trading names, so there are a variety of names that can be found.
The Turner family of potters was active in Staffordshire, England 1756-1829. Their manufactures have been compared favourably with, and sometimes confused with, those of Josiah Wedgwood and Sons. Josiah Wedgwood was both a friend and a commercial rival of John Turner the elder, the first notable potter in the family.
The original Castleford Pottery operated from c. 1793 to 1820 in Castleford in Yorkshire, England. It was owned by David Dunderdale, and is especially known for making "a smear-glazed, finely moulded, white stoneware". This included feldspar, giving it a degree of opacity unusual in a stoneware. The designs typically included relief elements, and edges of the main shape and the panels into which the body was divided were often highlighted with blue overglaze enamel. Most pieces were teapots or accompanying milk jugs, sugar bowls and "slop bowls", and the shapes often derived from those used in contemporary silversmithing.
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