Who started Daylight savings time? And what is the reason behind the change?
As we get ready tonight to change our clocks back one hour tonight, the Hopatcong Lake Regional News team thought it would be interesting to learn a little more about why we have this time change, where it came from, and why we still do this time change.
Bottom Line: It was all about saving energy, not about the farmers, school kids or any other rumor you have heard in the past! In addition, the idea was originally rooted in saving candle wax, not electricity.
Who started Daylight Savings time?
Germany became the first country to introduce DST when clocks were turned ahead 1 hour on April 30, 1916. The rationale was to minimize the use of artificial lighting in order to save fuel for the war effort during World War I.
The idea was quickly followed by the United Kingdom and many other countries, including France. Many countries reverted back to standard time after World War I, and it wasn’t until the next World War that DST made its return in most of Europe.
The Idea goes back even further
Although DST has only been used for about 100 years, the idea was conceived many years before. Ancient civilizations are known to have engaged in a practice similar to modern DST where they would adjust their daily schedules to the Sun's schedule. For example, the Roman water clocks used different scales for different months of the year.
Benjamin Franklin Involvement
American inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay called “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” to the editor of The Journal of Paris in 1784. In the essay, he suggested, although jokingly, that Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning, making use of the natural morning light instead.
While visiting France, Ben even suggested French officials shoot cannons at sunrise to jolt people out of bed, optimizing a number of hours they spent awake when it’s light out. That way, they could cut down on using candles to light their homes while awake.
DST in the United States
In the US, “Fast Time” as it was called in the early 1900’a, was first introduced in 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law to support the war effort during World War I. The initiative was sparked by Robert Garland, a Pittsburgh industrialist who had encountered the idea in the UK. Today he is often called the “Father of Daylight Saving.”
Only seven months, later the seasonal time change was repealed. However, some cities, including Pittsburgh, Boston, and New York, continued to use it until President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted year-round DST in the United States in 1942.
War Time DST – Time Zones get crazy!
Year-round DST, also called “War Time,” was in force during World War II, from February 9, 1942, to September 30, 1945, in the US and Canada. During this time, the US time zones were called “Eastern War Time,” “Mountain War Time,” “Central War Time,” and “Pacific War Time.” After the surrender of Japan in mid-August 1945, the time zones were relabeled “Peace Time.”
Modern DST History in the US
The US Congress extended DST to a period of ten months in 1974 and eight months in 1975, in hopes to save energy following the 1973 oil embargo. The trial period showed that DST saved the energy equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil each day, but DST still proved to be controversial. Many complained that the dark winter mornings endangered the lives of children going to school.
Energy Policy Act of 2005
After the energy crisis was over in 1976, the DST schedule in the US was revised several times throughout the years. From 1987 to 2006, the country observed DST for about seven months each year. The current schedule was introduced in 2007 and follows the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended the period by about one month. Today, DST starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.
Daylight Saving Today
Daylight Saving Time is now in use in over 70 countries worldwide and affects over a billion people every year. The beginning and end dates vary from one country to another. In 1996, the European Union (EU) standardized an EU-wide DST schedule, which runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
Who Still Benefits?
The practice has both advocates and critics. Putting clocks forward benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours, but can cause problems for outdoor entertainment and other activities tied to sunlight, such as farming. Though some early proponents of DST aimed to reduce evening use of incandescent lighting—once a primary use of electricity—today's heating and cooling usage patterns differ greatly, and research about how DST affects energy use is limited and contradictory.