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This excerpt is from the chapter titled "A Man of His Time," and it summarizes in a nutshell what the chapters on Simon Sallade, a most compelling character, are about.

"'Nothing should be attempted in a State, but what the citizens might be prevailed on to admit by gentle means, and that violence should never be employed.' So wrote Simon Sallade in his daybook a few weeks before he died. His comment was a fitting reflection for a man who had dedicated his life to his community and state, was valued for his many accomplishments, and was loved for the way he achieved them. He was, in fact, so respected by the people of the Lykens Valley that half a century after his death he was still regarded as the most spectacular man who had ever lived there. Because he focused his efforts on local rather than national issues, however, his life story has escaped the attention of modern historians. And yet, it is men like Simon Sallade whose work underpins development in the early years of America’s industrial expansion. He represents the hundreds of backbench state legislators who grappled with the often mundane and occasionally riveting issues of his day. And as a nuts-and-bolts general contractor, he typified the thousands of men who struggled to build America’s first great transportation system. What makes Sallade’s story especially compelling is that his service in the Pennsylvania legislature (1819–1820, 1820–1821, 1836–1837, and 1854) coincided with pivotal developments in American history. Moreover, in his work as a contractor, he had firsthand experience coping with the conflicts inherent in the intermingling of politics, finance, and technological progress during Pennsylvania’s canal- and railroad-building period. But Sallade’s story is more than a period tale. It is also a story about the people he knew: his family and friends, his business partners and fellow politicians, and near the end of his life, his adversaries."

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