Daylight Saving Time, or DST, is a brilliant campaign to convince us that we’re getting more daylight each day when in reality we’ve simply changed our clocks and then forgotten about it within two weeks. DST begins each year at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March in most of the United States and its territories, however there are some places that have not bought into this campaign: it is not observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the city of South Bend, Indiana nor the state of Arizona… except for the Navajo Indian Reservation, which does observe DST.
Each year at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November we return to Standard Time. This is the time in the Fall to “Fall” back by moving your clocks back one hour at the resumption of Standard Time. In the Spring, we “Spring” forward an hour, losing an hour of sleep, and finally realizing where we get the names for half of the seasons of the year. However, with DST for Summer now occurring before the vernal equinox which brings Spring, should we say “March forward”? What about the Southern Hemisphere which has the opposite seasons?
Why so many changes? Is this campaign on a roll, is it gaining energy? Indeed, it is all about energy… and of course, money.
Back on August 8, 2005, President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Before 2007, DST began at 2:00 a.m. (local time) on the first Sunday in April, and ended at 2:00 a.m. (local time) on the last Sunday in October. The new rules for DST beginning in 2007 mean an extra four or five weeks of DST each year. There is now a total of 238 days of DST, compared to a total of 210 days of DST in 2006 under the previous rules, and the U. S. will remain on DST for about 65% of the year. So think about it, DST will be in effect for most of the year.
It has spread to other countries as well but cloaked under other names. In the European Union (EU) it goes by the name Summer Time Period and will happen from the last Sunday in March through the first Sunday in November (later that year.) Most of Canada uses DST, except the majority of Saskatchewan and parts of northeastern British Columbia, but Manitoba and Ontario follow the US model to maintain “competitive advantage” with its major trading partner. In Russia though, they can’t get enough: they add an extra hour. During the Summer, Russia’s clocks are two hours ahead of standard time. During the winter, all 11 of the Russian time zones are an hour ahead of standard time. China and other parts of Asia and Africa ignore it completely. Closer to the equator, where the hours of daylight are similar throughout the seasons, they can see things better and are not fooled by the need for this “daylight saving” campaign.
At this point, you’re probably asking, “Bill… Petro… dot com, where did this all begin?” and well you might ask. Blame it on the trains… at least in Canada. Back before 1883, major cities used to set their clocks according to local astronomical conditions, but the advent of the railroads necessitated a way of standardizing schedules, hence the introduction of “time zones.” Canada’s Sir Sandford Flemming advocated this time zone and hourly variation, which was adopted at the International Prime Meridian Conference in Washington the following year.
But it did not yet see universal use. Various parts of the world experienced controversy concerning the impact on agriculture, outdoor activities, and business. Cows, for example, are notoriously bad at reading clocks. The new-fangled digital ones are quite beyond them.
Many credit American Benjamin Franklin with convincing us of the modern idea in 1784 while envoy to France as a way of economizing on candles by rising earlier. Englishman William Willett sponsored DST throughout his life in the early 20th century. Germany and its territories used it throughout World War I, and Britain and many of its allies later did the same. America standardized on it during WWI to save on coal usage. It was standardized upon again, year-round during WWII and again for two years during the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, both as means of saving energy.
Where does money come in? While we continued the use of DST following WWI, it fell into disuse in America between WWI and WWII. New York City bankers and brokers made efforts to reinstate it, so they could capitalize on the extra hour of arbitrage that DST permitted with the London markets. The New York Board of Aldermen lobbied Washington D.C. for it and saw it made law in 1920.
Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. –Benjamin Franklin
In 2019 the European Union is considering permanently going to Daylight Saving time. What do you think?
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian