The history of daylight saving time

Posted on Feb 28 2023 in Boone REMC

Ben Franklin didn’t invent daylight saving time (DST), but the widespread myth does have some footing. In 1784, Franklin suggested that people should rise with the sun to replace expensive candle use with free morning light. The idea for changing clocks didn’t come until 1895 when George Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist, came up with a two-hour time shift so he could do more bug hunting after work in the summer.

Seven years later, William Willett proposed the idea — advancing clocks in April and reversing them in December — to England’s Parliament, which rejected it. Willett continued to fight for the change until his death in 1915.

It’s about time

Trying to save energy during World War I, the German government followed Willett’s suggestions and adopted the time change in 1916. England, France and other countries that fought in the war quickly followed suit, including the United States on March 9, 1918. The change came with the Standard Time Act, which also instituted standard time.

But DST didn’t come easily everywhere. Joseph Stalin implemented the time change in what was then the Soviet Union in the spring of 1930, but he forgot to remind people to reverse the clocks in October, making clocks in certain time zones off by an hour for 61 years. 

America changes clocks

DST didn’t initially stick in the U.S., either. The DST portion of the Standard Time Act was repealed in 1919, overriding a veto by President Woodrow Wilson. Some cities, including New York and Chicago, continued to turn their clocks forward and back after the repeal, confusing travelers for years.

President Franklin Roosevelt reinstituted year-round DST on Feb. 9, 1942, to make the most of daylight hours during World War II. But after the law expired at the end of the war in 1945, states and cities once again set their own timekeeping rules. By the 1960s, localities in Iowa had more than 20 different pairs of start and end dates for DST.

The country came back together with the Uniform Time Act of 1966; DST officially began on the last Sunday of April and ended on the last Sunday of October. The law was revised in 1972 and overridden by the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act in 1973, which made DST effective year-round for a two-year trial period.

Dates returned to normal after 1975 until a 1986 revision added three more weeks of DST. Finally, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended DST starting in 2007, and since then we’ve sprung forward on the second Sunday of March and fallen back on the first Sunday of November.

About 30 percent of countries don’t observe DST at all, and even more are divided within their borders. In the U.S., Hawaii and parts of Arizona don’t change their clocks, and other states can exempt themselves with local laws.

Don’t forget to spring forward!

Daylight saving time begins on Sunday, March 12, at 2 a.m. Remember to move your clocks ahead one hour before going to bed on Saturday night!