In March 1918, America joined Europe in using Daylight Savings Time.
A funny thing happened on March 30, 1918. Many Americans went to sleep and woke up the next morning to find that it was an hour later than their clocks said.
Putting Daylight Savings Time Into Effect
President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill on March 19, 1918. When Daylight Savings Time went into effect on March 30, the rationale was that it was needed to help the United States in the war effort of WWI.
“Now that it is actually going to be made effective don’t plan to spend that extra hour of afternoon sunlight for pleasure. Make plans at once to devote that extra hour working in war gardens, or at some other out of door labor that will aid in helping to win the war,” wrote the New Castle News on March 20, 1918.
It was also expected that the extra hour of daylight would conserve coal for use in the war.
Though it would take some getting used to for Americans, 12 European countries were already using it.
How Daylight Savings Time Came To Be
Benjamin Franklin is credited with first proposing Daylight Savings Time in his 1784 essay, “An Economical Project.”
However, it wasn’t seriously considered until William Willet, a London builder, took up the cause in his 1907 pamphlet “Waste of Daylight.” He got his idea during an early morning ride when he noticed people still sleeping with their blinds closed although the sun had risen. Willet’s idea was to move clocks ahead by 20 minutes for four Sundays in April and do the reverse in September.
Though a bill was introduced to Parliament several times, it failed to pass. Willet died thinking most people scoffed at his idea.
However, England adopted it in May 1916. As predicted, the switch caused a lot of confusion.
Allowing Local Control
Though Daylight Savings Time was initially mandatory, part of the original U.S. legislation was repealed in 1919, leaving the option as to whether to participate up to the localities.
Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966. This set the start and end dates for Daylight Savings Time but still left the decision to the localities.
The start and end times were adjusted in 1986 and 2005.
U.S. Participants in Daylight Savings Time
Most places in the U.S. observe Daylight Savings Time except for Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Benefits of Daylight Savings Time
Having more daylight in the evening has been shown to save energy, decrease crime and reduce traffic accidents. The most-basic reason, however, is that most people just enjoy having more daylight time to enjoy the summer days.
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