Many folks are still likely working to get their biological clocks readjusted following the recent arrival of Daylight Saving Time, when we rolled our clocks forward and lost an hour of sleep.
It’s an annual ritual, but it hasn’t always been that way. The concept of moving the clock around to provide more hours for leisure and/or to save energy is relatively new.
The concept of daylight saving is attributed by some to Benjamin Franklin, while others doubt that theory. Whatever the case, the idea didn’t gain traction until the turn of the 20th century. A pamphlet called “The Waste of Daylight was penned by Englishman William Willet in 1907. A proposal to implement it failed in the British House of Commons in 1908, but in 1916, in hopes of conserving energy, British Summer Time was adopted.
In a bout of patriotic fervor, Daylight Saving Time was overwhelmingly passed by Congress in 1918. Opponents called for its repeal, but as a wartime measure the fight was steep, and it failed. From the March 28, 1919 Jackson County Journal:
“At 2 o’clock Sunday morning, March 30, the people of the country are for the second time to go through the spring performance of turning the hands of the clock ahead one hour. This will mark the return to duty of the Daylight Saving law, a war measure that a filibustering Congress failed to repeal on its day of adjournment, March 4. The moving ahead of the hands of the clock forward normally marks the exit of winter.
The Daylight Saving law met with practically unanimous and universal approval during its first trial a year ago. The law is expected to become further popularized during this second season, since the people will be more familiar with it.
While the official hour for the movement forward on the part of the hands of the clocks is set at 2 a.m., the purpose will be served if the forward movement is made to come to pass at retiring Saturday night.
There was a movement on foot in Congress, it will be recalled, to repeal the Daylight Saving bill but when sundry senators went-a-filibustering, important legislation got the gate. Hence it is again operative this year.”
Daylight Saving Time is a peculiar bird, a concept that’s restricted to the relatively small section of the earth that sees the length of the day significantly impacted. In the Artic regions, where a day can run six months, adding an hour isn’t going to make a difference; likewise for areas around the equator, where the length of the day doesn’t vary much.
Daylight Saving Time was pitched as a boon to farmers, but as most farmers rise and fall with the sun, or “God’s Time,” many were opposed as it didn’t match up to the business schedule. Business, on the other hand, saw an opportunity to reap profits from a populace that found itself with longer after-work daylight to be used on leisure activities.
There were evidently some ulterior motives behind some of DST’s proponents. The aforementioned Willet was a dedicated golfer and knew he’d be able to get in a few extra holes after work.
The broad support for DST evaporated in the U.S. after World War I drew to a close. Not long after the Journal pronounced it alive and well, Congress repealed it, over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto.
Wilson was also an avid golfer.
DST wasn’t officially reinstated until World War II. In the interim despite its repeal, some cities and states continued it. After it was ended again following WWII, there was an often-bewildering hodgepodge of conflicting time practices. History.com reports that there were 23 different start and stop dates for DST in Iowa; during a 35-mile bus ride from Moundsville, West Virginia to Steubenville, Ohio, you’d experience seven time changes.
In 1966 Congress stepped in with the Uniform Time Act, standardizing DST from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. In 2007 that was changed to the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November.
Even the new uniformity isn’t entirely uniform; Arizona and Hawaii don’t observe DST.
And even that lack of uniformity isn’t entirely uniform. In Arizona, the Navajo Nation does observe DST.