By : Bo James Adkinson
A Brief History of Daylight Saving Time
In a way, Benjamin Franklin, American politician, scientist, and smartass, originated the idea of daylight saving time in 1784 when, in a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, he advised French citizens to set their clocks back in order to save money on candles and lamp oil. The entire notion was satire. The letter was one of a series of letters and essays he wrote for the amusement of his French hosts as he was wrapping an almost decade-long tenure as Ambassador to France.
Because of this, many credit him with originating or inventing modern daylight savings time, even though he was entirely sarcastic about the notion, and he said nothing about alternating the time at different seasons of the year.
Editor’s Note: He was pretty sarcastic. What follows is a translation to modern English of a relevant excerpt of his letter, maintaining the sardonic tone and dispensing with 18th century froofiness.
Hey. Guess what. Noon isn’t morning. It’s noon. Did you know the sun actually comes up WAY before that? I accidentally woke up at 6am the other day after a typical parisienne par-tay, and it was sunny. I didn’t think of it as sunny at first, more like, what the hell is this shit? Until then I figured Paris was within a deep crevasse in the earth where the sun rarely fell because none of you get up before noon. You know what else? You spend way too much on candles and lamp oil. The sun is FREE. Seriously! I suggest you set your clocks back in order to accomplish this. I would suggest actually getting up earlier. Crazy, sure, what do I know? It’s not like I’m Ben Jammin’ Franklin or something. OH WAIT!!
His idea was probably quickly forgotten in France and not heard of by anyone other than historians until recently.
Franklin’s wit had a hand in the New Jersey Devil legend. /Editor’s note
The Sun Never Sets On the British Empire
Daylight Saving Time in its modern form was actually developed in 1895 by George Hudson, a British born entomologist and astronomer living in New Zealand. He drafted a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two-hour shift forward in October and back again in March. There was some interest in the notion, but nothing came of it.
It took fourteen years for Parliament to take the idea seriously. An British builder named William Willett wrote a paper suggesting that clocks be set back not twice, but eight times each year–four times in April and four times again in September, each time moving a mere 20 minutes, easing in and out of “Summer Time.”
The idea caught the attention of Robert Pearce, a sitting member of Parliament, who presented the first Daylight Saving bill in 1909. It was roundly opposed, but eventually passed into law in 1916–one year after the death of William Willett.
Meanwhile, in 1908, residents of Port Arthur, Ontario decided to turn their clocks forward an hour to capitalize on an extra hour of sunlight for their work day. Other cities in Canada soon followed. Regina began to set their clocks forward in 1914 and Brandon and Manitoba followed in 1916.
From Sea to Shining Sea
The United States formally adopted Daylight Saving Time in 1918, but there was no consistent regulation across the states that chose to observe it. During one year Iowa had more than 20 different pairs of Daylight Saving Time start and end dates. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were on a completely different time than other cities within their own Time Zone, such as Washington D.C., Baltimore, or Cleveland.
Industry lost millions trying to manage these regionally changing time schedules–especially transportation and communication. The timetables printed by the railroads cost the current equivalent of more than $12 million per year. Riots broke out across the nation. Police called them “time disturbances” More than 1,000 students of Ohio University threw liquor bottles and protested against the police for closing the bars one hour early.
In fall, Amtrak stops all trains already en route at 2am for an hour so they will be back on the normal schedule. In the spring they do what they can to catch up.
The Uniform Time Act of 1966 regulated Daylight Saving Time within each time zone. The Act allowed each state’s legislature to vote whether to adopt this method or to maintain standard time.
After the oil embargo of 1973, President Richard Nixon passed the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act, extending the DST time-frame to ten months in an effort to save energy.
Since then, the DST schedule has been revised many times. Currently, the US follows the Energy Policy Act of 2005, with Daylight Saving Time lasting from the 2nd Sunday in March until the 1st Sunday in November. Individual states are still allowed to vote on whether or not they follow this federal mandate.
Concerns and Controversies
Daylight Saving Time has been hotly contested since its beginning. For more than a century, the debate has raged. Countries vastly differ in their approach. Fewer than 40% of countries use Daylight Saving Time. Only 33% of Americans see any purpose to it at all. For every study or statistic purporting benefits in daylight saving time, there is at least one demonstrating negative effect. Add to this mounting that this time transition can actually cause serious health issues.
Pros and Cons
When we “Spring Forward” in March, we gain an extra hour of daylight in the afternoon and evenings. Adherents suggest that this allows for more leisure activities and promote outdoor activities. Tourism and transportation industries both profit from this extra hour each day. More sunlight means more commerce, which boosts the local economy.
Numerous studies have linked Daylight Saving Time to health and safety issues. The fluctuation in time, even as little as one hour, disrupts our circadian rhythm, our “internal clock.” This is comparable to jet lag, which many can suffer with as little as a one time-zone or one hour shift. This can have a direct link to increased symptoms of depression and increased risk of heart attack.
The transition has also been linked to increases in suicide, auto accidents, workplace injuries, and miscarriages.
One of the main arguments for Daylight Saving Time is the attempt to save energy. The logic being an extra hour of daylight in the evening would mean less energy spent on artificial lighting. However, this mostly pertains to latitudes midway between the poles and the equator, where the summers and winters mean long days and long nights. Any savings on lighting is probably lost with the use of air conditioning at earlier hours—and running continuously in summer months..
There are of course more outlandish reason why this institution remains intact.
Golf Courses and Last Calls
According to Michael Downing, a professor at Tufts University and author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, the declining golf industry is “the most important reason we’re still doing and expanding the period of daylight saving time.” With an extra hour to pursue leisure and recreation, more money flows into these industries during the summer than any other time.
Candy Coated Collusion
Michael Downing is at the center of this as well, alleging this time that The National Confectioner’s Association attempted to sway politicians during the 1986 U.S. Congressional hearings with gifts of candy pumpkins.
The assertion reportedly comes from Joanne Petrie, an attorney acting with the Department of Transportation. The National Confectioner’s Association represents every major candy manufacturer operating in the U.S. – including Mars, Wrigley, Tootsie Roll, Mars, and Hershey’s.
Night Owls and Morning Larks
Finally, would it surprise you to find out that the elitist alpha males that manage and run almost every major company and control every major industry have a huge chip on their shoulders when it comes to the overnight staff? That’s the case, according to Bruce Y. Lee of Forbes. These hyper aggressive “morning larks” are up early and have it in for “night owls,” who’d work while the rest of the world sleeps. Maintaining control of the work environment, they keep DST rolling so they keep their power base.
Seems like just another reason to hate morning people.
Daylight saving time is a good reminder to change the batteries in your smoke detectors.
How do flat-earthers explain daylight savings time? Ask your local flat-earther today!
At The End of The Day…
When Daylight Saving Time was first introduced, it was to a mostly agrarian society that didn’t have the same energy consumption patterns as we do now. As industrialization has given way to information technology, so too has the need for patterned behaviors that revolve around whether or not the sun is up. There is more than enough evidence that Daylight Saving time does more harm than good to much of the population.
Some industries still require that extra daylight, and many of these benefit in the middle latitudes where Daylight Saving Time is most effective. Some people may benefit from getting up an hour early, but it seems to mirror Franklin’s own parody to require an entire nation to follow this same pattern.
It seems to this author that at the heart of the Daylight Saving Time debate lies a very simple premise. It is more important to the corporations, the industrialists, and the lobbyists that consumers are both active and off-balance for an hour longer each day. Because a tired worker wants to relax. An exhausted and depressed worker wants another drink. Because those that don’t have to get up with an alarm want those that do to be too tired at the end of the day to give protest.
Two quotes from Benjamin Franklin come to mind as I end this.
“Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it.”
“Time is money.”
- About Daylight Saving Time – History, rationale, laws & dates. Accessed October 27, 2017. http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/index.html
- Lee, Bruce Y. “Time To Get Rid Of The Daylight Saving Time Switch.” Forbes. March 13, 2017. Accessed October 27, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2017/03/11/time-to-get-rid-of-the-daylight-saving-time-dst-switch/#5c247a38360d
- “The History of Daylight Saving Time.” Timeanddate.com. Accessed October 27, 2017. https://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/history.html
- Thestar.com. “The Halloween conspiracy at the heart of Daylight Savings Time.” Thestar.com. October 30, 2015. Accessed October 27, 2017. https://www.thestar.com/life/2015/10/30/the-halloween-conspiracy-at-the-heart-of-daylight-savings-time.html
- Tuttle, Brad. “Daylight Saving Time as Economic Stimulus: More Sunlight Means More Spending | Money.” Money. March 6, 2016. Accessed October 27, 2017. http://time.com/money/3735872/daylight-saving-time-conspiracy-stimulus/
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