Here are some resources that can help with your search.

City Directories 1849-1943 – Shelby County Registrar (link)

Commercial Appeal Archives 1894-Today – Newsbank (link)

Maps of Memphis (link)

Vehicle Registration Plates of TN – Wikipedia (link)

Recently added images will appear first. To see older posts, scroll to the bottom of the page.

If you suggest an answer, please share with us how you solved the mystery!


“Scene On Poplar” . Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0829)

This black and white postcard shows homes along Poplar Avenue at the turn of the twentieth century. The caption on bottom of postcard reads, “Scene on Poplar. 1900.” Poplar Avenue has changed dramatically over the course of the previous century. Can you determine what block of Poplar Avenue is shown here?

Residences on Union Avenue, 1900. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0377)

These two photographs (each measuring 7.25 x 4.25 inches) labeled “Scenes on Union Avenue” show Victorian-era houses on Union Avenue. The notation “1900” is written in the lower right corner. Can you help us determine the coordinates or street addresses for each of these locations?


East McLemore Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0482)

This photograph, taken on November 15, 1950, is described as, “View of East McLemore Avenue”. Our records do not include any specific coordinates or cross streets. Can you help determine what stretch of East McLemore is shown in this photograph?

Lamar Avenue. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0440)

The record accompanying this image does not have have a date, and the description simply reads, “An overpass over Lamar Avenue.” Do you know where this overpass is located?


Aerial View of Poplar. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0819)

The Memphis Streetscapes Collection contains a number of aerial photographs taken high above Memphis streets. The caption on this photograph simply states, “3-18-58 Poplar.” Without the ability to read signs on streets and businesses, it can be difficult to determine where the aircraft was located when this image was created. Can you help provide coordinates for this image?

Aerial View of Poplar. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0818)

This photograph was taken on the same day as the one above. The caption on the back also states, “3-18-1958 Poplar.” Can you determine the location depicted in the image?


Buildings on Front Street in 1907. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0110)

This photograph of Front Street, looking southwards, was taken in 1907. Pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages are outside the storefronts that line the busy street. It appears the photographer is standing near the intersection of Front and a street that can be seen heading east, on the left side of the image. Can you locate this block of Front Street?

Main Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0575)

This old photograph shows a horse-drawn carriage pulling a boat. A crowd of onlookers can be see lining the cobblestone street, watching what was a likely a parade. The description on the digital item identifies this as Main Street, although it’s not clear if the physical photograph was labeled that way. Can you confirm this is Main Street and pinpoint the exact location?

Lauderdale Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0454)

The above drawing appeared in the Commercial Appeal along with this caption, “This was a busy corner 35 years ago. The old Southern Railroad depot is across Lauderdale to the right. It was once the passenger station of the Memphis & Charleston. Lauderdale and Piomingo Avenue is at the transition point. Another old part of town will soon be swallowed by the new as a “for rent” sign hands [sic] on the Lehman store.” What were the coordinates for this spot?


Jan Scandlin submitted the answer to this mystery. She began by researching the intersection of Piomingo and Lauderdale St., and found a Crème de Memph article titled, “The Widening of Jefferson Ave.” that was particularly helpful. The article contains many images from DIG Memphis showing the general area of the M. & C. R. R. Depot. From there, she consulted multiple maps from our Map and Poster Collection. The 1870 Bird’s Eye View map has a really nice drawing of the area, and the 1951 map labels it “Southern Yards.”

The 1870 map indicates that at that time the street was named Charleston Avenue. According to the City Directories, beginning in 1891, there is a listing for Felix Lehman at 68 Charleston Avenue. This is further confirmed by an article that ran on November 18, 1903, in the Commercial Appeal , detailing a burglary where “burglars entered the store of Felix Lehman, 68 Charleston Avenue, last night between 11 o’clock and midnight, and took two hats and two shirts from the show window”.

By comparing the older maps to maps from today, Jan Scandlin was able to determine the location to be in the vicinity of the present-day Paul Borda Towers, east of Danny Thomas Blvd., with the coordinates roughly around: 35.143345, -90.042998.

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This week we’re highlighting something a little different: architectural details! Our Memphis Streetscapes Collection contains a few close-up photographs depicting the details on buildings. This presents a unique challenge because there is no background information visible that would provide clues for what this is and where it is located. Can you help locate the buildings in these images?

Building detail. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0207)

This image is close up of a design built into a building. The keystone reads: AD 1894 or possibly 1891. Note on the back reads: “Duplicate print from the Urban Renewal Files in the Archives”. You can see this same building in a second image here: Street0208. Can you provide the name and/or location of this building?


The solution to this mystery first came to us via our Instagram page. Julie McCullough thought the details looked familiar and searched her own photographs, quickly finding a match! The building is located at 162 Beale Street, and is now home to King’s Palace Cafe and The Absinthe Room.

162 Beale Street. ©Julie McCullough/@thisplaceinhistory

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Architectural detail . Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0206)

This photograph captures the elaborate details employed in a building. Note the design in the brick to the right. The note on the back reads: “Duplicate print from the Urban Renewal Files in the Archives”. Do you know what building is seen here?


We received the answer to this mystery through the web form, from someone with great attention to detail. Honing in on the brick work, that submission stated, ” Looks like the brick that’s on the building directly next to and apart of Kings Palace Cafe.” Sure enough, if we zoom in on the building at 166 Beale Street, the bricks do match those seen on the right side of the photograph. It appears that the building details, as seen in the older image, are currently obscured by an awning over 162 Beale Street, but you can still see part of the building’s features along the sides of the door here.

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For this week’s mysteries we’re focusing on a few photographs depicting different areas of Lauderdale Street. Lauderdale and its neighboring streets have undergone many changes over the years, especially with the development of Danny Thomas Boulevard. Can you help us determine the coordinates of the images below?

Lauderdale Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0456)

The current descriptive record on our first image indicates this to be “Lauderdale Street looking towards Madison Avenue in 1938.” It’s not clear what direction photographer was facing. Using the details seen in the photograph, can you confirm that the photographer was indeed facing Madison Avenue? Were they facing north or south? If you can, share the latitude/longitude coordinates with us, which can be determined by using Google Maps.

Lauderdale Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0449)

This photograph shows a sign for Star Coal along “the extension of Lauderdale Street”. We can see some traffic, including what appears to be a transfer/storage truck in the distance. The image below depicts this same area from a different vantage point. Can you determine the geographic coordinates for the spot where this photographer was standing?

Lauderdale Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0450)

The image here appears to be showing the same area as the photograph above. We can see the same Star Coal sign in the background. This photo was taken from an elevated space one block over and shows people, perhaps children, playing in an empty lot. Can you figure out what area we’re looking at here?


Businesses Along North Parkway. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0778)

This week’s mysteries are two images with businesses visible in the distance. The first photograph shows stores and businesses along North Parkway. The caption on back of photo indicates it was taken on November 25, 1956, but where? Can you locate any of the businesses and pinpoint where the photographer snapped this shot in 1956?


The solution to this mystery was found by locating Scola’s Market, which can be seen on the left side of the image. We received a couple of submissions indicating that Scola’s Market was located on the southeast corner of North Parkway and Thomas St./Danny Thomas Blvd. The Commercial Appeal Archive shows many ads for Scola’s Market at 653 North Pkwy. You can see the Peyton St. sign on the right side of the photograph, and although Peyton no longer reaches North Parkway, Peyton Circle still exits just north of the Parkway. The photographer was facing west around these coordinates: 35.155565, -90.036458.

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Bridge on South Third Street, 1951. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0362)

The second image shows patched pavement on South Third Street in April 1951. A bridge with concrete railings is visible. The background shows traffic on South Third, a Texaco gas station, and two billboards. Can you determine the location of this bridge on South Third Street?


We received a few submissions answering this mystery, all indicating that we’re looking at South Third near South Parkway. One answer specified that this “is a section of South Third between South Parkway East to the south and McLemore Avenue to the north. The bridge and railings were redone a few years ago.”

Another detective pointed out that a building seen in Digital ID Street1012 along South Parkway can also be seen in the distance on the left side of the image above. When zooming in on that building on the left, you can make out part of the name on the building: “….witz”. According to a July 6, 1950 article in the Commercial Appeal archive, “Mrs. Louis Liebowitz and her son, Richard, of New York, are guests of her sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Milton Moskowitz of 235 South Parkway East.” That address matches the building in the image, providing further confirmation that we’re facing South Parkway East.

Further research using the Commercial Appeal archive, revealed a listing for a Texaco Service Station at 1447 South Third, and a Texaco sign can be seen in the image above, at that address. All of this research confirms that the photographer was likely set up around the coordinates: 35.109840, -90.055302.

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Jackson Avenue being paved. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0543 )

This photograph shows paving work being done on Jackson Avenue in May of 1938. The woman on the left appears to be standing at a cross street, but there are no visible signs indicating what street is crossing Jackson Avenue here. Can you determine which area of Jackson Avenue is seen in this photograph?


We received many suggestions, and this solution required a multi-step approach. It all starts with the business sign that can be seen under the ‘Double Cola’ advertisement on the left: Irene’s Place. The Commercial Appeal Archive has a few articles that mention Irene’s Place, owned by Harvey Graham, located at 332 Jackson Avenue. The 1938 Polk City Directory confirms a ‘Graham Harvey restr’ at 332, between Concord Ave. and N. Seventh St., just west of the where the L&N Railroad crosses Jackson.

This 1925 map shows this particular area of Jackson Avenue and indicates that St. Paul Baptist Church is on the SE corner of Jackson and Concord. Our photo does indeed show a church on that corner, across from Irene’s Place. So what does that location look like today? The area has been completely reformed as part of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus, but you can still see the basic structure of the roads on Google Maps.

Concord Avenue is now Shadyac Avenue. The likely coordinates for this photograph are 35.154274, -90.041788. Thanks to everyone who submitted suggestions!

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Jackson Avenue construction in 1938. Memphis Streetscapes Collection. DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0541)

Here’s another Jackson Avenue mystery from May 1938. This
photo shows surfacing work being done as part of a Works Progress Administration project. Without many notable signs, it is difficult to determine where this photographer was standing. Can you locate this stretch of Jackson Avenue?


Dirt Road McLean. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0473)

This undated photograph shows a child on an unpaved McLean Blvd. Unlike other images in our Memphis Streetscapes Collection, this item does not have geographic data in its record. Do you recognize any of the structures shown here? Can you determine which stretch of McLean is captured in this photograph?


This mystery was solved when a sleuth submitted the coordinates for another photograph depicting the same block of McLean Avenue. That photo, Digital ID Street0474, was taken some years after the one above, but it also shows the home in the background with the turret. That house is still standing!

Using the Street View feature of Google Maps, we can confirm that it is the house seen here. The photographer was likely standing somewhere near the coordinates of 35.132819, -90.000437.

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Trolley tracks on Front Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street1030)

This 1938 photograph shows the trolley railways running along North Front Street. A man sits under an awning (left), and the Industrial Supplies Inc. building is in the background (right). The photographer is standing near a particular cross street (on the left), but which one?

*HINT* – This might be another chance to use the Library’s expanded access to the Commercial Appeal Archive or the City Directories on the Shelby County Registrar’s site in order to track down this business location.

Main Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0682)

The caption on back of photo reads, “Oct. 1958…From the Civic Center Advisory Committee.” Although we can’t see many of the signs or tops of buildings, we can see pedestrians walking and cars driving along Main Street. The photographer is standing on street corner or in a crosswalk, but where? Can you determine which corner of Main Street is seen here?


Many virtual detectives cracked this case, everyone supplying a different piece of the puzzle. Most focused on Baker’s Shoes, which can be seen on the right side of the image. According to the 1943 City Directory, Baker’s Shoes was once located at 17 N. Main Street, but by 1958, Baker’s Shoes was located at 105 S. Main, as is evident in multiple advertisements and articles in the Commercial Appeal.

105 S. Main would place our photographer at the southwestern corner of Gayoso Avenue and Main Street. A few other detectives pointed to the businesses across the street: Stein’s Furs, which was located at 96 S. Main and Paul’s Shoes, which was at 104 S. Main. These businesses confirm we’re at the right spot, and a few people even submitted the correct coordinates: 35.1419964,-90.0542208. Google Street View provides added confirmation. We can still see the old Baker’s Shoes tile at the building entrance!

As an extra bonus, two people supplied details about the vehicles in the photograph. The car on the right is a 1955 Studebaker Speedster, the only year they were made. The car next to it is a then, brand new 1958 Oldsmobile Super 88. Thanks to everyone for the detailed information!

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Trolley Wire on Mississippi Boulevard. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street1007)

This photograph from 1940 shows workers placing trolley wire along Mississippi Boulevard. The caption on back of the physical photograph reads, “Reeling off trolley wire-11-4-1940 on Mississippi Blvd.” Can you determine where these men were working back in 1940? If so, please share the cross street or latitude/longitude information.


We received several solutions. One involved using the online City Directories (in our list of resources at the top of this page) to locate Gas Stations on Mississippi Boulevard in 1940 (see the gas station in the background?). Then, using Google maps, our detective was able to search the gas station’s address and activate the Street View option to see the current street. They then noticed the building on the right was still standing!

Another solution involved searching the Commercial Appeal archives (also in our list of resources at the top of this page), where our second detective found an article from March 1940, detailing the location of the trolley improvements.  They then also used Google maps and saw the same building on the right.

Our third detective suspected it was a church a few blocks down at 974 Mississippi Blvd., but then realized that church didn’t have the little side window that appears in the older image. Using Google Maps to progress down the street, they then realized an old church at 878 Mississippi Blvd. did match the details of the building in the photo, specifically, the little side window!

You can see the comparison below.

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Hunt-Berlin Coal Co. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street0781)

The men pictured here are working on the L & N Railroad tracks. The caption on back of photograph reads, “5-27-1940, Orleans Street Crossing at L & N tracks.” Because streets and railways have changed over time, it is not immediately clear where this photograph was taken. Can you locate this spot by providing an address or latitude/longitude data?


We received the solution to this mystery in the form of the coordinates: 35°07’31.0″N 90°02’25.2″W. According to the 1940 City Directory, Hunt-Berlin Coal Co. Yard was located on S. Orleans, just north of the railroad crossing. The directory also indicates that E. Cherry ended at this spot, which is evident by the post marked “Cherry” on the right side of the image. Maps from this time indicate that these are the N.C. & St. L. tracks; however, they were used by the L&N Railroad.

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Poplar Avenue. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0816)

This old image of Poplar Avenue shows men working on a construction project along a dirt-covered road. The caption on sides of photo reads, “The Kodagraph Co. Memphis, Tenn.” The caption on back of photo simple indicates, “Poplar Ave.” But where? Based on some of the signs in the background, can you determine where this is and when this photo was taken?


The solution to this mystery came to us via our Instagram page. Our virtual detective honed in on the Kahn Co. sign that is partially visible on one of the buildings in the background, and he noticed that we had another photograph of Kahn Furniture Co. in our archive. The image found in Digital ID Street0815 describes a note on the back of the photograph that reads, “Leo Kahn & Co. 352-354 Poplar Ave. Leo Kahn manager (1912 directory)”.

That location checks out! 352 Poplar Avenue falls between Lauderdale St. and the intersection of Carroll Ave./High St., which is confirmed in the 1912 City Directory. Further confirmation can be found in the depiction of the slightly raised tracks. Around the spot where Poplar crosses the Gayoso Bayou, the streetcar tracks become raised. You can see this in multiple images in DIG Memphis, and as seen in this map from 1925, the Gayoso Bayou crossing was just east of Fourth Street.

This puts our photographer right around the modern-day intersection of Poplar and Danny Thomas Blvd.: 35.148262, -90.043749.

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Jackson Avenue Viaduct in 1938. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street0538)

The above photograph from 1938 shows the Jackson Avenue Viaduct. Unlike most of the images in our Streetscapes Collection, this one does not have specific geographic data attached to it. Can you determine the exact location this photographer was standing back in 1938? If you can, share the cross street or Latitude/Longitude information, which can be found by using Google Maps.


This solution was a joint effort!  We received a couple of answers pointing to different sides of the Jackson Avenue Viaduct. To determine which side the photographer was standing, we must locate Schmidt’s Café. The café seen in the distance is not listed by name in the 1938 City Directory. The only restaurant that is listed in the area of the viaduct is ‘Pryor Wm D restr’ at 2876 Jackson Avenue, which is a possibility! When searching ‘2876 Jackson’ in the Commercial Appeal, we found a small social announcement stating, “Winnifred Smith of Paducah, Ky.is visiting Mr. And Mrs. L.C. Schmidt at their home at 2876 Jackson.” –  therefore tying the Schmidts to the restaurant near the eastern side of the viaduct! 

The photographer appears to be standing on the southeastern side of the viaduct, facing west, near these coordinates: 35.159800, -89.963566.

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Lamar Avenue. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street0442)

This photograph captures a pedestrian talking to a man on a bicycle next at the intersection of Lamar Avenue and Woodward Street. Because this area has undergone dramatic changes over the years, we currently do not have Latitude/Longitude data for this spot. We’re also unsure what year the photographer snapped this photo. Can you determine the exact location and time period captured here? If you can, please share!


This mystery was solved by examining old maps of Memphis, specifically the Map of the city of Memphis & vicinity (1925) as found in the Tennessee Virtual Archive. On this map, we see Lamar and Woodward prior to the development of the interstate. Woodward Street now ends before reaching Lamar Avenue, but if we follow the old map, it places our photographer on Lamar near the current on-ramp for I-240 South: 35.130662, -90.024423.

Determining the date of the image is a little trickier. By zooming in on the car and its license plate, a detective noticed that this vehicle is similar to the one seen on the right side of this image from 1938. The license plate also seems to match the one from 1938, as seen on this list. While we’re not 100% certain, it does appear that this photograph was likely taken sometime around the year 1938.

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Madison Avenue. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street1115)

The image above shows Madison Avenue in 1950. A couple of business signs are visible, including Westinghouse Electric Supply Co., but none of the street addresses can be seen. Where was the Westinghouse Electric Supply Co.? Can you locate this block along Madison Avenue?


We received many submissions for this mystery. Thanks to everyone who sent in information! The solution was a joint effort. According to the 1943 City Directory Westinghouse Electric Supply Company was located at 366 Madison Avenue, just west of the intersection with Wellington. On the left side of the image, we see a partial sign for Dewbre Motors. Advertisements for Dewbre Motors first appear in the Commercial Appeal in October 1947 and list the company at 365 Madison Avenue. This confirms our location.

By April of 1949, Dewbre Motors moves to 349 Monroe Avenue (per Commercial Appeal advertising), which means the 1950 date can’t be correct. Further, ads in the Commercial Appeal in August of 1948 list 366 Madison as being for sale, and on September 12, 1948, Westinghouse announces they are in their new location at 845 N. Main Street. By January 2, 1949, Dunlop Tire has moved into the old Westinghouse location, which is confirmed by this image: Street0494.

The photograph above must have been taken sometime between 1947 and mid-1948. The photographer was standing near the southwest corner of Madison and Wellington. Danny Thomas Blvd. now runs roughly the same route as Wellington St., although the street has been significantly widened. The likely coordinates for this location are: 35.142901, -90.044300.

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Florida Street (3). Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street0079)

This undated photo of Florida street shows Herron’s Beauty Shop and School on the left side of the road, but where was Herron’s Beauty Shop located? Do you know which block of Florida Street is depicted in this photo?


This mystery was solved over on our Instagram page! Julie McCullough (@thisplaceinhistory) pointed to the image found in Digital ID Street0086 and noted that the building that housed Herron’s Beauty Shop can be seen on the left side of that photo. As indicated by its title “Florida Street and Olive Avenue (2)”, the photograph seen in Digital ID Street0086 was taken just south of the intersection of Florida St. and Olive Ave., which would place Herron’s Beauty Shop in the 1300 block of Florida Avenue.

By examining the license plate seen on the right side of the image and consulting a list of Vehicle registration plates of Tennessee, we can determine that the plate on the car is likely from 1959. The photographer was standing near the coordinates: 35.110727, -90.062292. The western side of this block has been completely transformed, but the eastern side still has several buildings that are seen in Street0086.

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Billboard on Cleveland Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street0026)

The back of this photograph indicates that it was taken along Cleveland Street on an undetermined date.
A Barber Shop to the left of the billboard can be seen, and we can also see a Motor Co. on the right. What area of Cleveland is depicted in this image? Do you know the time period?


A few people successfully located this spot by finding ads for McMullen Motor Company in the Commercial Appeal archives. Ads for McMullen Motor Co. first appear at the address 439 N. Cleveland in June of 1944. By mid-1948, advertisements begin showing Bob Erwin Motors at the same address. It is likely this photograph was taken sometime between 1944-1948.

So, where was the photographer standing? One detective noticed that by examining the photograph in Digital ID Street0902, you can see 439 N. Cleveland, along with the smaller building that houses the barber shop in our photo. Both buildings are on the southern side of Autumn Avenue, near the intersection with Cleveland. The image in Street0902, also shows a driveway of sorts that leads to a parking lot just west of the barber shop. This matches the road seen next to the billboard in our photograph. The building with the barber shop sign is still there today. That building is located at 1349 Autumn Avenue, which means we’re looking at the back of the building in our photograph.

The photographer was likely standing near the coordinates: 35.150500, -90.014101.

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