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A Brief History of Time

It’s getting to that point in the year when the days are shorter, darker, and colder. But there is a light at the end of this tunnel- DAYLIGHT SAVINGS (DST). That one day of the year where we get to “Fall Back” and gain an hour of precious, precious slumber.

 

A little history about this day- it exists to make the most use of natural light and conserve energy. 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.

Then in 1784 Benjamin Franklin wrote a satirical essay called “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” where he suggested that Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning, making use of the natural morning light instead. Looks like National Treasure got something right!

Riley Poole: All right! What I know is that daylight savings wasn’t established until World War I. If it’s 3 p.m. now that means that in 1776 it would be 2 p.m.


 

Another  major contributor to the invention of DST was New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson. In 1895, Hudson presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society, proposing a two-hour shift forward in October and a two-hour shift back in March. Then, independently from Hudson, British builder William Willett proposed the introduction of DST in 1905. He suggested setting the clocks ahead 20 minutes on each of the four Sundays in April, and switching them back by the same amount on each of the four Sundays in September, a total of eight DST switches per year. Willett’s Daylight Saving plan caught the attention of Member of Parliament, Robert Pearce who introduced a bill to the House of Commons in February 1908. The first Daylight Saving Bill was drafted in 1909, presented to Parliament several times and examined by a select committee. However, the idea was opposed by many, especially farmers, and thus the bill was never made into a law.

World War I was the event that changed our days forever. The rationale was to minimize the use of artificial lighting in order to save fuel for the war effort. Germany was the first country to implement DST and the rest of Europe and America followed suit shortly after. However, after World War I many countries reverted back to Standard Time. It wasn’t until the next World War that DST made its return in many countries in order to save vital energy resources for the war.

 

In the U.S., Daylight Saving Time 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 United Kingdom. A passionate campaigner for the use of DST in the United States, he is often called the “Father of Daylight Saving”. The seasonal time change was repealed just seven months later. 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 to aid the war efforts of World War II.

In the United States, DST caused widespread confusion from 1945 to 1966 for trains, buses, and the broadcasting industry because states and localities were free to choose when and if they would observe DST. Congress decided to end the confusion and establish the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that stated DST would begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. However, individual states still had the ability to be exempt from DST by passing a local ordinance.

The U.S. 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. After the energy crisis was over in 1976, the U.S. changed their DST schedule again to begin on the last Sunday in April. In 1987 DST was further amended to begin on the first Sunday in April. After the introduction of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, even more changes were made. Today, DST starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. Currently, most of the United States observes DST except for Hawaii and most of Arizona, as well as the U.S. insular areas of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.

America can’t do anything the easy way can we?


 

Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. this Sunday morning when clocks are turned back one hour. There will be more light in the morning, but it will get dark earlier each day, which means motorists should be on the lookout for students walking home or disembarking from buses in the late afternoon.

 

Enjoy the extra hour of sleep!

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Tom Curcio, the driving force behind Curcio Law, is a dedicated trial lawyer with more than 35 years of experience in Northern Virginia. He has dedicated his career to representing people who have been seriously injured through no fault of their own. He works tirelessly to obtain the compensation his clients are legally entitled to…

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