History of Daylight Saving Time – Fall Back

Daylight Saving

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, some places 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.


Standard Time


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 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.


Daylight Saving Energy

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.


Daylight Saving Worldwide

Daylight Saving Time World

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.


Daylight Saving Interrogative

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, 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.


Daylight Saving Sponsors

Saving Daylight

Many credit American Benjamin Franklin for 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. Some countries even observed double summer time. It was standardized upon again, year-round, during World War II .  For two years during the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, DST was again standardized upon to save energy.


An End to Daylight Saving Time Switching?

Will this twice-annual clock-changing routine ever end? Perhaps. Governmental bodies at the State level in the U.S. and elsewhere have debated the benefits and liabilities of this semi-annual switch for years.



Money and DST

Where does money come in? While we continued using DST following WWI, it fell into disuse in America between WWI and WWII. New York City bankers and brokers made efforts to reinstate it to 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.




Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian


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About billpetro

Bill Petro has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.


  1. Hi! I stumbled upon your blog this morning as I did a search on the history of “A Christmas Carol.” Thank you for writing that post last December. My students enjoyed it.

  2. Today it is almost always one hour ahead, but throughout history there have been several variants on this, such as half adjustment (30 minutes) or double adjustment (two hours), and adjustments of 20 and 40 minutes have also been used. A two-hour adjustment was used in several countries during the 1940s and elsewhere at times.

  3. Another fun post Bill. But why do I have to ask the question, “Bill Petro .com where did all of this begin?”, like I’m William Shatner in Star Trek? That’s how it sounded in my head when I read it. Just like Capt. Kirk would have asked.

    • I’m flattered that you think I sound like my favorite Starfleet Captain. But actually, I got it from Steve Martin, who I saw perform standup in Berkeley in the late ’70s. His line was:

      “I know what you’re thinking… ‘Steve… Martin, how can you be so funny?'”


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