PHINEHAS J. BAILEY, A VERMONT CLOCKMAKER,
TINKER, INVENTOR, MINISTER
and his associations with
John Osgood, Jedidiah Baldwin, and Nathan Hale



© Donn Haven Lathrop 2008


Hale Dial
Figure 1. The Reverend Phinehas J. Bailey ca, 1827 - 1830. The punches, the set, the nippers, the crucible, and the burnisher were used in making silver spoons. The watch, which he carried until his death, is an 1813 Josiah Reynolds of Warwick (England).
Although the primary focus of this paper is on Phinehas J. Bailey, clockmaker of Chelsea, Vermont, several other notable clockmakers of New Hampshire and Vermont also figure in the paper, including some interesting new data on Jedidiah Baldwin, Nathan Hale, and John Osgood.

Phinehas J. Bailey was born in Landaff, New Hampshire, on the 6th of November, 1787, the fourteenth of seventeen children born to Asa and Abigail (Abbott) Bailey.1 Two of his closest siblings died in infancy, but Phinehas survived to live a long and interesting---but grindingly hard---life. He became successively, a clockmaker, jeweller, silversmith, travelling tinker, teacher, printer, and minister. His crowning secular achievements were in his short-lived career as a clockmaker, jeweller and silversmith, and in his development and publication of a novel and extremely useful phonetic shorthand system which he called 'Phonography'. To his chagrin, a better-financed and -advertised system from England eventually became the standard of stenography schools. He served as a minister in Vermont and New York churches from 1823 until 1860. Phinehas Bailey died on the 14th of December, 1861, and lies buried next to his second wife in a small cemetery in East Berkshire, Vermont.


1. His mother spells his name Phinehas in her memoirs; Phineas and his daughters always spell his name without the second "h."

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Phinehas' father, Major Asa Bailey, was remembered in his fourteenth child's Memoirs as of "a violent and cruel temper".2 After his 1767 marriage to Abigail Abbot in Haverhill, New Hampshire, the Major moved up the Connecticut and Ammonoosuc Rivers to Bath, and finally settled in Landaff. He accumulated a fortune in land, and supported his family in relative physical comfort. Regardless that Asa was considered to be "a man of superior intellect, perseverance and energy", several times elected Town Selectman, and awarded a commission in the 25th New Hampshire Regiment, his wife left him because of his brutality---a brutality which included wife beating, incest with his third oldest daughter, blatant infidelity with a hired woman, and the attempted rape of another hired woman. Phinehas wrote in his Memoirs , "Probably no two were ever more unequally yoked than they", and of his mother noted; "...[she] was generous and kind in all her deportment."3 Major Bailey made the separation as difficult as he possibly could. He exchanged his farm in Landaff for one belonging to his brother in Bradford, Vermont, and evidently forged Abigail's signature on the deed. He then convinced her to accompany him to a frontier farm he owned in Unadilla, New York, (now known as Unadilla Forks, about 15 miles south of present-day Utica) under the pretext of selling the farm, the proceeds from which were to be her settlement in the separation. It quickly developed that his actual intent was to reassemble his family in New York, under whose laws Abigail could not have sued for divorce, and there reassert his somewhat less than benign authority. He abandoned her---"with less than a dollar, sick with small-pox"---in Unadilla and returned to Bradford with the intent of retrieving the rest of his family. Abigail recovered and somehow made a solitary two month, 250-mile journey home, and was reunited with her children at the eleventh hour---they were already on their way to New York when their wagon was stopped in Thetford, Vermont. Her husband's behavior was such that he was eventually locked up in Haverhill, New Hampshire, and Abigail successfully sued for divorce. The Major eventually won his freedom by giving his wife $600 from the sale of his farm, as well as his promise that he would never return to the upper reaches of the Connecticut River Valley. 4

The six hundred dollars melted away rather quickly, and Mrs. Bailey reluctantly sent all but two of her children to live with relatives and friends. Phinehas, at the age of five, was fostered out (in 1792) with his recently married oldest sister Abigail, in Bath, New Hampshire, about three miles away to the west, where he spent the next year or so exploring his new home, and "swimming and picking berries." His brother-in-law, Stephen Bartlett, was a schoolteacher who treated the boy as his own, and made sure he learned his 'three R's', until he himself abandoned teaching for storekeeping and farming. Phinehas left his schoolwork after three years simply because he didn't care for the teachers who followed his brother-in-law, and spent his spare time avoiding chores by dragging his feet when sent on an errand, and by sneaking into his uncle's workshop, where he made "sleds, carts, crossbows, windmills, and almost every other mechanical enterprise", establishing a base on which he was to later build his clockmaking skills.


2. From Phinehas Bailey's Memoirs held by the Bennington Museum, (?hereafter PB--BM.)
3. Ibid.
4. Reverend Ethan Smith of Hopkinton, New Hampshire, who edited Mrs. Bailey's memoirs, appended the following note: "Major Bailey returned to New York where his credit sunk and he became wretched. In December, 1793, he found and married a vile widow---a turbulent being---who in some degree repaid his cruelities to a better companion...rumors have him to be in extreme poverty, and disgrace---to have become a Methodist preacher..." the last being a pejorative of the worst sort from a Congregationalist minister. Ms. Taves adds this note: "Methodist preachers probably did not appear in New Hampshire until the 1790s. Congregationalist clergy typically looked down on [them] because...they were theologically unorthodox and...typically uneducated."

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At the age of fourteen, Phinehas was apprenticed to John Osgood, "a clockmaker, silversmith, and jeweller" in Haverhill, New Hampshire. Osgood worked in Haverhill from 1793 to 1840, making clocks and jewelry, repairing watches, and working in silver just a few miles south of Bath on the Connecticut River. (It is worthy of note that there are several Osgood clocks still in Haverhill---after 200 years, a maker's clocks are usually dispersed over the entire country.) It was in Haverhill that Bailey first felt the religious stirrings---and set his personal goal of becoming a minister---which were to dominate his life in the years to come. After completing his apprenticeship in November, 1809, at the age of 21, he found work as a journeyman clockmaker in Hanover, New Hampshire, with Jedidiah Baldwin, clock- and watchmaker, silversmith, storekeeper, and postmaster.

Account book entries
1809/Mar. 6 Mr. Phineas Bailey Dr To cash pd Jerh Hill 1 .14 (marked "paid")
1809/Apr 19 Phineas Bailey To cash Dr 1 .00 (marked "paid")
1809/Apr 28 Phineas Bailey Dr To cash .25 (marked "paid")
1809/Apr 30 Phineas Bailey .10 To postage to Chelsea (marked "paid")

Figure 2. Baldwin's 'Tinkering & Postage Account Book' (1806-1811) entries pertaining to Bailey. Dr means "debtor." The Jeremiah Hill mentioned in the first entry was a journeyman silversmith working for Baldwin in 1809.



Baldwin's Ledger entries (1806-1811) do not mention Bailey in the same manner as were his other journeymen, perhaps because of Bailey's extremely short term of employment in Hanover---from November to May of the next year.

Regardless, the following appears in Bailey's Memoirs: "November, 1808. I had arrived at the age of 21, had finished my apprenticeship with Mr. Osgood, and begun to look out for myself. I went to Hanover, New Hampshire, and worked the following winter for Mr. Baldwin in making clocks. Mr. Baldwin, although a Methodist preacher, was not a very honest and upright man (See Footnote 4). He gave but little evidence of piety, but he always treated me well. The circle of my acquaintance in that place were abandonly (sic) wicked.

There was a respectable Congregational church in the place, but as I was a Methodist and lived in such a [Methodist] family, I found no intercourse with respectable people. ...I found it [the shop] to be a good school." 5 This interlude as a journeyman in the company of the wicked and dishonest lasted only seven months, and in May of 1809 Phinehas moved to Chelsea, Vermont, about 20 miles to the northwest across the Connecticut River.


5.  From Phinehas Bailey's Memoirs held by the Vermont Historical Society (hereafter PB‹VHS).

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Phinehas went to Chelsea "[because I had] learned that there was one Nathan Hale6 who formerly worked at the clock business who had some tools to sell". Bailey struck a bargain with Hale in a partnership wherein Hale would provide the shop and the tools and stock, and he would make clocks "by the halves".

Ledger entry
Figure 3. Baldwin's Ledger (1806-1811) has but a single entry regarding Bailey: May 7, 1809 Mr. Phineas Bailey, Clockmaker To cast steel, 17 cts. with a "Cr" (credit) entry in the "Contra" column.

Nathan Hale, originally of Rindge, New Hampshire, had moved to Chelsea about 18077 and became a rather wealthy storekeeper, innkeeper and tavernkeeper. He has variously been said to have learned clockmaking from Stephen Hasham8 of Charlestown, New Hampshire, or from the Hutchins brothers, Levi and Abel, in Concord, New Hampshire.9 Other known Chelsea clockmakers are Jeremiah Dewey, c. 1824-30, and Orsamus Roman Fyler, c. 1831-33. The latter is very likely the mysterious "experienced WOODEN CLOCK maker, from Connecticut", mentioned in an advertisement by Hale in June of 1830, as Fyler is recorded in Chelsea and Bradford at that time.10 There are no entries in Baldwin's account books or ledgers mentioning Hale.

Chelsea suited Phinehas very well. The Chelsea Congregational Church provided a suitable social framework, and he very soon dropped his adherence to Methodist tenets and joined the Congregationalists. His defection may have been due (although he claimed otherwise) to his infatuation with a young lady described to him as one of the "likeliest" in town (who also sang in the [Congregational] church choir). It took Phinehas six months of visiting her family to get up the courage to even speak to Janette, the 19-year-old daughter of John and Margaret McArthur. He must have eventually gotten over his shyness---six months later, in August of 1810, they were married. He achieved early success in his clockmaking partnership, and confident of continued success, the couple purchased a house for $700, and within six years added two small Baileys to the household.


6.   Ibid.
7.Various local histories aver that Hale was in Chelsea before 1800, however the 1800 census places Hale in Windsor, Vermont; there is no listing for Hale in 1810, and in 1820 lists him as in Chelsea. The 1810 census places his brother Harry in Topsham, Vermont.
8. Both Parsons and Carlisle, (see Bibliography) claim Hale apprenticed with Hasham. Thomas Hale, the keynote speaker at the 1884 Centennial Celebration in Chelsea, made the same claim, the evident basis for the statements made by both Parsons and Carlisle. Thomas was Harry (Nathan's brother) Hale's son.
9. Mr. Edwin A. Battison (pers. com.) leans toward the perception that Hale's work resembles that of the Hutchins "school" to a greater degree than it does Hasham's. Lather research casts doubt on this perception---Hale is considered to be an 'assembler' of clocks, in that he purchased various parts, and assembled his clocks, rather than making the movement himself.
10. George H. Eckhardt, United States Clock and Watch Patents, 1790 - 1890. The Record of a Century of American Horology and Enterprise.

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It is curious to note that Bailey kept rather careful records of his own genealogy, and similarly careful records of his first wife, but neglects to note the births (and early) deaths of all but two of his own children, nor does he record their names, except in passing in his memoirs. He carefully records the dates of his three marriages, and the dates of the deaths of his first two wives. His first child, a daughter named Cyrena, drowned (without mention) at the age of 2 in the First Branch of the White River, which ran just behind his shop in Chelsea.11 He had at least 10 children, seven daughters and three sons. Two of his sons died early, as did two of his daughters. .

By 1816, the flood of cheap wooden clocks (probably from Eli Terry and his imitators) had begun to flow northward from Connecticut, and Bailey's market for brass clocks collapsed. He may have considered wooden clocks with the same distaste displayed by a Pennsylvania clockmaker who advertised in 1815: "Mr. Simon Chilicothe advertises clock and watch making and repairing...the Yankee wooden works excepted, which can only be mended by carpenters and cleaned by fire."12 His personal claim in later years was that he was the "last brass clockmaker in New England" when he quit the business in 1816.13 Nearly penniless, he took to the road with a small pushcart as a travelling repairman, fixing clocks, watches, pots and pans, and anything else that came his way, and managed to support his family, even though his charges were "extremely modest." To fend off boredom on his long trips around Vermont and across the Connecticut River to New Hampshire, he would read borrowed books---he couldn't afford to buy his own. One of these books was a small pamphlet on shorthand---Mangan's System of Stenography---a subject he found fascinating, and one he quickly mastered. He incorporated some improvements of his own, and added teaching shorthand to his long list of talents for hire. The pushcart was soon left at home as Bailey began teaching ministers, teachers, businessmen, and students his shorthand method full-time, earning as much as $100 a month---and to his delight found himself in the "...company of learned and pious men" who would further his education. Incidentally, this monthly sum of money was nearly as much as he was actually paid each year in his later career as a minister.


11. From "A Father's Legacy," typewritten (transcriptionist inknown), a highly edited biography of Bailey by his oldest daughter, Mrs. Louisa M. Whitney: Vermont Historical Society Archives.
12. James Biser Whisker, Pennsylvania Clockmakers. Watchmakers, and Allied Crafts.
13. PB---VHS.

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Still determined to become a minister, he studied theology and its ancillary subjects in his spare time---even to the extent of spending some time as an unregistered student at Middlebury College---reading the rhetoric, logic, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin which were a part of the standard theological curriculum of the day. He trained his two sons in his (phonetic) shorthand method, which he called "Phonography," and had them take down the sermons of the Reverend Calvin Noble in Chelsea. Over the years he collected several hundred sermons in this fashion, and later wrote over 2,500 of his own.

After the Orange [County] Association of the Congregational church granted him his license to preach in 1823, this self-educated clockmaker/minister took charge of a church in Richmond, Vermont, and four months later moved to a church in Berkshire, off in the northwest corner of Vermont, just a few miles from the Canadian border. In 1827, at the "rum-raising" of the frame of the parsonage, two drunken workmen dropped a beam which just missed his head and crushed his foot, "nearly severing several toes." As a result of this accident, Bailey began to push the cause of temperance. (His reasoning is not to be faulted!)
Tall clock
Rum, in those days, along with "cider" was the drink of the day, and the minister always got the best sherry when he went calling on his parishioners. The minister not only got the best sherry when he called during the week---he very often had a glass (or two!) of rum on his pulpit to sustain him during his two-hour Sunday sermon in an unheated church. Regardless of the momentum of the temperance movement, many towns in Vermont continued to vote "wet" with the same streak of independence that established the Republic of Vermont, tried to annex Canada to the United States, and did annex much of western New Hampshire. As late as 1892, when the town population was hovering around a thousand souls, the liquor agency in Chelsea sold nearly $2000 (the equivalent of $20,000 today) worth of spirits in one year. A particular favorite was known as "flip," a hot, sweetened concoction of rum and ale, or rum and cider, made with spices and milk and eggs; a rather potent drink whose name derived from the ease with which it could be "flipped" or tossed, down the throat. For some unrecorded reason, Phinehas left the church in Berkshire in 1833, and began a wandering of some 13 years through churches in Beekmantown, Ticonderoga and Hebron, New York. In 1837 his second son, Sylvester, (a printer in Burlington, Vermont) died of tuberculosis, and two years later his wife died of a "mysterious illness," leaving Phinehas with three small children, two of them crippled with "mysterious handicaps"---possibly from infantile paralysis (polio).

A severe financial depression began in the same year, and Bailey found himself penniless; many churches could no longer afford to pay their ministers.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the church and the Town Meeting House were usually one and the same, and the church and the minister were supported through taxation. By about 1820, this situation had changed as citizens objected to being forced to support through their taxes a church to which they did not belong, and ministers were thrown on the benevolence of their congregations. Phinehas was so poor that on one trip in Vermont he had to borrow a dollar from the Rev. Joel Fisk of Waitsfield just to get back to his family. On his return to Waitsfield several days later to repay the loan, the Rev. Fisk was out, so Bailey handed the dollar to the minister's thirty-five year-old maiden sister---and proposed to her two days later. Within a month Betsy Fisk became his second wife---a somewhat hastier courtship than his first.

Even though Phinehas had published his "Phonography" shorthand method in 1821---he hand-cut his own matrices to cast the shorthand type to be used to print the symbols---a lack of funds prohibited extensive advertising. Another system devised and heavily advertised a few years later---a system nearly identical to Bailey's---by Isaac Pitman of England became the standard throughout the world.14


14. The foundation of any phonographic shorthand system is the criterion of "one symbol for one sound", a principle Bailey recognized, developed, and published long before the Pitman shorthand system was exported. Courts of law employed professional reporters trained in the much more heavily promoted Pitman method to quickly and accurately record testimony and legal arguments, businessmen began to demand expert secretaries, and Bailey's "Phonography" descended further into obscurity‹not to be recognized until 1902 for its originality.

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After an attempt at the printing business in Essex, New York, which very quickly failed (his other son, Keyes, was a successful printer in New York City), Phinehas Bailey returned to minister to the church in Berkshire, Vermont, in 1845, saying that he regretted leaving in the first place. Two years later, in February of 1847, his second wife died, leaving him with "a feeble infant baptized over his mother's coffin (a month-old son named Abbot Fisk, who lived a mere two months longer), a three-year-old daughter and several other children."

Four months later, Phinehas, now 60 years old, met Hannah Edwards of Morrisville, Vermont, and married her two days later---by this time he seems to have tired of the courtship game, and got right to the point without wasting time. Hannah Bailey evidently was not as popular a step-mother as her immediate predecessor had been; Phinehas' oldest daughter wrote in 1902, "It is not...to speak good or evil of the living, but to pay passing tribute to...a loving and devoted wife."15 In 1852, Phinehas buried his daughter Arabella, who died as the result of injuries suffered two years earlier when she fell out of a wagon whose iron-shod wheel rolled over her.
Letter in shorthand
Figure 5. Photocopy of a letter written in his shorthand to his daughter Louisa in 1860. The translation of the first paragraph:

"West Albany, [Vermont] July 16, 1860
Beloved daughter Louisa,
We received your letter last Saturday the same day that it was mailed and the next day after it was written. I was much amused by the manner in which you wrote the word 'overdo' (written ). This is probably correct but it is the last way I should have thought of.

Your poor old father
P. Bailey"

In 1860, after retiring from the pulpit in Berkshire, Phinehas moved his family to Albany, in the north central area of Vermont, and bought a small farm where he lived out his days. He suffered severely from rheumatism---he recorded in his diary that one Sunday he had gone to church, but had to go home because his hands were so crippled he couldn't tie his horse, and once back home, was "a long time crawling in the house and on the bed." On December 14th, 1861, the Chelsea, Vermont, clockmaker and inventor of the earliest phonetic shorthand system died at the age of 74, and is buried next to his second wife in the cemetery behind his church in East Berkshire, Vermont.


15. "A Father's Legacy", Mrs. L. M. Whitney.

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Bailey Bibliography


BAILEY, Chris L., Two Hundred Years of American Clocks and Watches: Prentice- Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. 1975.

BALDWIN, Jedediah, Account Books and Ledgers, 1793-1811: Special Collections of Baker Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.

___, Papers‹1794-1810., Handwritten Mss.; Receipts, Bills, Letters, Summons; &tc. Special Collections of Baker Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.

BULLETIN of the NAWCC, #85, Pg. 251; #119; Pg. 40; #144, Pg. 143; #187, Pg. 427; #211, Pg. 463; #227, Pg. 703, & Pg. 741; #238, Pg. 607; #245, Pg. 488; #246, Pg. 46; #247, Pg. 126; #248, Pg. 215; #249, Pg 312; #250, Pg. 380; #251, pg. 463; #261, Pg. 346; #289, pg. 219; #293, Pg. 723. # 294, Pg. 219. Various references to Bailey, Baldwin, Dewey, Fyler, Hale, Hasham, and Osgood.

CARLISLE, Lillian Baker, Vermont Clock and Watchmakers, Silversmiths, and Jewelers, 1778-1878: The Stinehour Press, Lunenburg, Vermont. 1970.

CHELSEA Centennial: Chelsea (Vermont) Centennial Committee: proceedings of the centennial celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the settlement of Chelsea, Vermont, together with the Orange County Veteran Soldier's reunion, September 4, 1884: Sentinel Printing Company, Keene, New Hampshire. 1884.

CHELSEA Town Records, Book 7, Pg. 470.

CURRIER, Stanley P. and CLEMENT, Edgar T., History of Landaff, New Hampshire. Currier Printing Company, Incorporated, Littleton, New Hampshire. 1966.

GILMAN, Marcus Davis, 1820-1880. The Bibliography of Vermont; or, A list of books and pamphlets relating in any way to the state. Printed by the Free Press Association, Burlington, Vermont. 1897.

GILMAN, W. S., Committee Chairman for the Chelsea Historical Society. Chelsea, Vermont, 1784-1984, Shire Town. Northlight Studio Press, Barre, Vermont. 1984.

HOPKINS, Persis Lorette. "A sketch of her father, Phinehas Bailey." Bibliography of Vermont. Published in Gilman (supra). Printed by the Free Press Association, Burlington, Vermont. 1897.

KERN, Charles W., God, grace, and granite : the history of methodism in New Hampshire, 1768-1988. Published for the New Hampshire United Methodist Conference by Phoenix Pub. Canaan, N.H. 1988

LEE, John Parker, Uncommon Vermont: The Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont. 1926.

LORD, John King, A History of the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire: Printed for the town of Hanover by the Dartmouth Press, 1928.

MARSHALL, Jeffry D. "Occasional paper Number 9: The life and Legacy of the Reverend Phinehas Bailey." Center for Research on Vermont, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, 1985.

MEMOIRS of Rev. Phinehas Bailey, written by himself. Incomplete 55 page typescript transcribed 1902 by Louisa Bailey (Mrs. Joel F.) Whitney. Courtesy the Vermont Historical Society.

MEMOIRS of Rev. Phinehas Bailey, written by himself. These five pages were evidently edited out of the Vermont Historical Society typescript (perhaps in an effort to remove the family's domestic difficulties from the public eye) and are found in this typescript (transcriptionist unknown) held in the collections of the Bennington Museum. Courtesy the Bennington Museum.

NEW HAMPSHIRE PATRIOT [Concord, New Hampshire], 8 January, 1811. New Hampshire Historical Society Collections.

PARSONS, Charles S., New Hampshire Clocks and Clockmakers: Adams-Brown Co., Exeter, New Hampshire. 1976.

TAVES, Ann, Ed., Religion and domestic violence in early New England: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey: Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana. 1989.

TREVELYAN, George Macaulay, History of England: Doubleday & Co. Garden City, New York. 1953

WHITCHER, Rev. William F., History of the Town of Haverhill, New Hampshire. Rumford Press, Concord, New Hampshire. 1919.

WHISKER, James Biser, Pennsylvania Clockmakers, Watchmakers, and Allied Crafts: Adams Brown Company, Cranbury, New Jersey. 1990.

WHITNEY, Louisa M. (Bailey), A Father's Legacy: unpublished typescript (transcriptionist and date of transcription unknown) manuscript. An uncritical, and highly edited biographical treatment of Phinehas Bailey. Courtesy the Vermont Historical Society.

ZEA, Philip, Clockmaking and Society at the River and the Bay‹Jedidiah and Jabez Baldwin, 1790-1820: Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife. Annual proceedings. Boston University: Boston. 1981.

___, To making one of Saturn's moons: Jedidiah Baldwin and the Urbanization of the Upper Connecticut River Valley, 1793-1811. Typed manuscript in the Special Collections of Baker Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. 1979.

Acknowledgements


Very special thanks to the late Dr, Allan L. King, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Curator for Historical Scientific Apparatus, Curator of the Dr. Hugh Grant Rowell Clock Collection at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, for his inspirition, encouragement and assistance in research.
To Phillip Zea for permission to quote portions of his research on Jedidiah Baldwin, and to Kim King Zea for her help in locating various archival documents.