The History of Daylight Saving Time

Twice a year, the clocks are changed—either an hour backward or an hour forward. Luckily, this weekend, time will “fall behind” as Daylight Saving Time ends, and Sunday is a 25-hour day. Sunrise and sunset are earlier, so there is more morning light. Work and school begin an hour later on Monday, and the much needed extra sixty minutes can be spent sleeping or catching up on chores.

On Sunday, November 1, at 2 A.M. local time, the clocks are turned backward to 1 A.M. While cell phones and electronics are already preprogrammed, alarm and analog clocks must be manually rerouted. Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia practice Daylight Saving Time, while Arizona and Hawaii do not. Although the practice has its benefits and downsides, what is its purpose? When did it begin?

According to another source from College Candy:

Daylight Savings Time was created in order to make better use of daylight while also attempting to conserve energy by extending the day. The initial idea was proposed by Benjamin Franklin as more of a joke to help save candles by getting people to wake up earlier in his essay, “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.”

It is unknown if Benjamin Franklin was proposing this or was simply creating satire. Nevertheless, his 1784 essay, written for The Journal of Paris, generated conversation. However, Daylight Saving Time was not established for another century.

In 1895, George Hudson, a British-born entomologist and astronomer from New Zealand, suggested: “a two-hour time shift so he’d have more after-work hours of sunshine to go bug hunting in the summer.”

Britishman William Willett wrote a pamphlet called “The Waste of Daylight” in 1907. He urged for clocks to move an hour back in the fall and an hour forward in the spring, with the purpose of more sunshine during the day, darkness during the night, and money saved on light bulbs. The British House of Commons dismissed his idea, but Germany was the first country to change their clocks on May 1, 1916, to save energy during World War I. Shortly after, Great Britain’s Summer Time Act introduced British Summer Time. Other European countries followed suit, and their laws flip-flopped for several decades.

On March 19, 1918, the United States passed its first law regarding Daylight Saving Time. The nation decided to temporarily change the clocks during the summer, while the country was engaged in war. America wanted to save on fuel and energy. When World War I ended, states and local governments were left to decide if they wanted to change their clocks annually. This created confusion and disarray.

Baseball, golf, and other outdoor recreational sports supported Daylight Saving Time because the extra hour of sunlight benefited nighttime matches. Shoppers cherished it too. It provided more time to exercise outside with friends and families. Yet early movie theaters despised Daylight Saving Time, as people were less likely to go there during the bright evening hours. Farmers also loathed it, due to the lack of sunlight during their busy mornings.

Throughout World War II, the United States reinstituted the national clock change. According to CNBC, “New York City, however, continued to observe a metropolitan Daylight Saving Time all along. Because of the city’s position as a financial capital, other places followed.” This meant that large cities were living in a different time zone than their nearby rural neighborhoods, and for many months of the year and for several decades. After WWII was over, states and local governments again gained control over their hours.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. If states decided to change their clocks, they must do so simultaneously. The entirety of a state now had to follow the same standards. Daylight Saving Time and Standard Time would each be used for six months of the year. With this current law, states can opt-out of Daylight Saving Time completely, but they cannot use it all year long. As stated before, Hawaii and Arizona don’t participate in Daylight Saving Time, nor do the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.

As stated by Time.com:

In 1973, shortly after the oil embargo went into effect, President Richard Nixon called for year-round Daylight Saving Time. A brief trial ended—partly because of fears that children would get hit by cars in the dark—but Daylight Saving Time has nevertheless grown. In 1986, the U.S. started observing seven months of it.

Live Science states,

Originally, clocks were sprung forward on the last Sunday in April and turned back on the last Sunday in October, but the Energy Policy Act of 2005 shifted the start of daylight saving time to the second Sunday in March and the end to the first Sunday in November.

This bill was passed by President George W. Bush, so that Halloween trick-or-treaters can get an extra hour of sunlight to collect candy. Now Daylight Saving Time lasts for eight months of the year.

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