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Behind the Scenes: Some Timeline Riddles
When creating the American Presidents Timeline, C-SPAN drew on a variety of sources. However, given the the limitations of space and design on the Timeline, we had to make several difficult choices: what information to present, and what to exclude; how to describe events; and where to place images. While some information, like birth and death dates, is certain, most of history is not an exact science. So the Timeline is meant to be a starting point for learning, not the “final word.” While creating this resource, we had to tackle some riddles, and question and interpret history. We hope it inspires you to do the same. We Want to Hear
Your Timeline Riddles

We invite YOU to raise and investigate your own questions about the Timeline, and tell us what choices you might have made differently.
State or Colony?
Through the Timeline, we track the presidents' service in legislatures at the colonial and state level. However, the question came up: when did Virginia (or all the colonies for that matter) come to be considered a state and no longer a colony? We decided to pick 1776 as the pivotal year-after the Declaration of Independence, these public servants no longer considered themselves colonists and began to write state constitutions. Do you agree with our decision?
Was Virginia's Council of State a Legislative or Executive Body?
Both James Madison and James Monroe served on Virginia's colonial Council of State. This council was appointed by Virginia's legislative body, the General Assembly, and served a type of advisory council and go-between for the governor and the General Assembly. So were Monroe and Madison serving on a state legislature during the years they served on the Council of State? For the sake of the Timeline, we decided "yes," but some scholars may disagree with our choice.
Did the War of 1812 end in 1814 or 1815?
The treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812, was signed in December, 1814. But oh, what a difference a month can make. The Battle of New Orleans, a decisive battle which secured commander Andrew Jackson's reputation as a leader, and enhanced the United States' status as the victor, was fought in January of 1815. On the Timeline we marked the War as ending in 1814. But would it be more correct to say it ended in 1815?
War or Conflict?
The Congress has not declared war since World War II, yet our military engagements in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf are commonly called wars. On the Timeline, we chose to refer to these events as conflicts. But would it be incorrect to call them wars?
Invention vs. Patent Date?
For both the telegraph and the light bulb, the Timeline indicates the years these inventions were patented, not the year they were invented. Their patent led to their introduction to the general public and mass production in the commercial marketplace. However, without their invention, the patent would not have been possible. Which date would you have included on the Timeline?

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