Daylight Savings Time

Nov 01, 2014

It used to be said that there are two topics that one should always avoid in conversation: religion and politics.

Now a third can be added: Daylight Savings Time.

People love it or hate it.

The modern-day concept was conceived in the mind of Benjamin Franklin back in 1784 and was introduced in an essay he penned entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light”

The idea behind it was to make better use of natural daylight and to conserve energy.

As we all know, during Daylight Savings Time (DST) clocks are set ahead by one hour, giving us an added hour of daylight each evening and one hour less in the morning.

Though Franklin came up with the concept in 1784, it has only been used for about the past hundred years.

The concept did not actually begin with Franklin, though. It is believed that several ancient civilizations basically did the same thing, adjusting their daily schedules to the Sun’s. The Romans had water clocks that used different scales for different months of the year.

George Vernon Hudson presented his version of DST in New Zealand to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1895, proposing a two-hour shift forward in October and back in March. His idea was not utilized.

A British builder, William Willet, also proposed the idea in 1905. His idea was more complex, suggesting that clocks be set 20 minutes ahead on each of the four Sundays in April, and then switching them back by the same amount of time on each of four Sundays in September. His idea made it to the House of Commons as a bill, but it was never fully passed.

Germany was actually the first modern-day country to implement DST on April 30, 1916. The rationale was to minimize the use of artificial light in order to save fuel for the World War I effort. Then the idea spread to Britain and the United States, but it wasn’t actually implemented in the U.S. until World War II, again, to save energy resources for the war effort.

Franklin D. Roosevelt acted to have DST instituted year round, calling it “War Time,” just forty days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The U.S. time zones were designated as “Eastern War Time,” “Central War Time,” and “Pacific War Time.” After the surrender of Japan in 1945, the zones were re-named “Peace Time”.

The U.S. time change caused a great deal of confusion from 1945 to 1966 for trains, buses, and the broadcast industry because states and localities could choose when and where to observe DST.

In 1966, the “Uniform Time Act” was passed and it stated DST would begin on the last Sunday of April, and end on the last Sunday of October. States and localities could still claim exemption from the time, though.

In 1974, the U.S. Congress extended DST to a period of ten months, and then in 1975 to eight months, again, in order to save energy during the 1973 Oil Embargo.

Studies indicated the time change saved about 10,000 barrels of oil each day.

Though the beginning and ending dates vary from country to country, DST is used in over 70 countries worldwide.

The current U.S. schedule was introduced in 2007, and follows the “Energy Policy Act of 2005”, which extended the period by about a month. It now starts on the second Sunday in March, and ends on the first Sunday in November.