You lost an hour of sleep this week, and if you’re like most people, you aren’t even sure why. My son asked me why we have Daylight Savings Time (DST), and not really knowing the answer, I perpetuated the myth that it was brought about by the powerful farmer lobby who wanted more daylight hours to work the fields. It was only when I researched it that I discovered that it was an energy efficiency goal dating back over 100 years, to be finally acted upon by Germany in WWI.
This may be the most widely accepted form of energy efficiency, yet the most unpopular in the country. Many people even question if DST saves energy. Daylight saving advocates have touted energy conservation as an economic benefit. A U.S. Department of Transportation study in the 1970s concluded that total electricity savings associated with DST amounted to about 1 percent in the spring and fall months. As air conditioning has become more widespread, more recent studies have found that cost savings on lighting are more than offset by greater cooling expenses. University of California Santa Barbara economists calculated that Indiana’s move to statewide DST in 2006 led to a 1 percent rise in residential electricity use through additional demand for air conditioning on summer evenings and heating in early spring and late fall mornings. Some also argue that increased recreational activity during daylight savings results in greater gasoline consumption.
Whether or not DST saves energy today, here is the history of how it got started.
Englishman William Willett led the first campaign to implement DST. While on an early morning horseback ride around the desolate outskirts of London in 1905, Willett had an epiphany that the United Kingdom should move its clocks forward by 80 minutes between April and October so that more people could enjoy the plentiful sunlight. The Englishman published the 1907 brochure The Waste of Daylight and spent much of his personal fortune evangelizing with missionary zeal for the adoption of “summer time.” Year after year, however, the British Parliament stymied the measure, and Willett died in 1915 at age 58 without ever seeing his idea come to fruition.
It took until World War I for Willett’s dream to come true, and on April 30, 1916, Germany embraced DST to conserve electricity. Weeks later, the United Kingdom followed suit and introduced “summer time.”
United States, 1918
Contrary to popular belief, American farmers did not lobby for daylight savings to have more time to work in the fields. In fact, the agriculture industry was deeply opposed to the time switch when it was first implemented on March 31, 1918, as a wartime measure. The sun, not the clock, dictated farmers’ schedules, so daylight savings was very disruptive. Farmers had to wait an extra hour for dew to evaporate to harvest hay, and hired hands worked less since they still left at the same time for dinner and cows weren’t ready to be milked an hour earlier to meet shipping schedules. Agrarian interests led the fight for the 1919 repeal of national DST, which passed after Congress voted to override President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. Rather than rural interests, it has been urban entities such as retail outlets and recreational businesses that have championed daylight savings over the decades.
For decades, daylight savings in the United States was a confounding patchwork of local practices. After the national repeal in 1919, some states and cities, including New York City and Chicago, continued to shift their clocks. National DST returned during World War II, but after its repeal three weeks after war’s end the confusing hodgepodge resumed. States and localities could start and end daylight saving whenever they pleased, a system that Time magazine (an aptly named source) described in 1963 as “a chaos of clocks.” In 1965 there were 23 different pairs of start and end dates in Iowa alone; and St. Paul, Minnesota even began daylight savings two weeks before its twin city, Minneapolis. Passengers on a 35-mile bus ride from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, passed through seven time changes. Order finally came in 1966 with the enactment of the Uniform Time Act, which standardized DST from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, although states had the option of remaining on standard time year-round.
United States, Present Day
Hawaii and Arizona, except for the state’s Navajo Nation, do not observe DST, and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands also remain on standard time year-round. Some Amish communities also choose not to participate in DST. (Around the world, only about one-quarter of the world’s population, in approximately 70 countries, observe DST. Since their daylight hours don’t vary much from season to season, countries closer to the equator have little need to deviate from standard time.)
Oh, and sorry I’m a bit late with this blog post… I forgot to change my clocks.
Thanks to History.com – the source for this blog post. http://www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-daylight-saving-time.
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