Spring forward, fall back

I always always always thought (at least, I think I always thought) that Daylight Saving Time* was something the U.S. put in place to increase the daylight hours for the farmers. It was just recently that I had a conversation with someone about how difficult it is for the farmers to switch the clocks twice a year, because the cows aren't ready to be milked an hour earlier, and the planting and harvesting seasons bookend the DST hours, so don't benefit much.

I'm listening to Hattie Big Sky, and she casually mentions that she thinks it is strange to start President Wilson's new daylight saving plan to save coal for the war effort on Easter Sunday.

Whahhhhh? I honestly can't remember ever hearing that DST was put in place to conserve energy while we were at war -- so of course, I had to look it up, and there's all sorts of fun facts about that small event we do on the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November that wreaks havoc on my circadian rhythm known as daylight saving time.
  • Benjamin Franklin first suggested it while he was an ambassador in France. (This link also has a table showing the start and end dates for both the United States and the European Union, which are different each year...).
  • The United States implemented a time zone plan in 1883 to regulate the transportation across the country. The telegraph, and morse code, made it possible to coordinate the time zones. International Standard Time was adopted at the International Prime Meridian Conference in Washington D.C. in 1884. (Okay, that isn't actually about DST, but I like the point that this idea, coordinated time zones, was probably something that was long needed, and finally made possible with the ability to coordinate the clocks. It's the tipping point thing.)
  • Daylight Saving Time was first observed in the United States for seven months between 1918 and 1919 to conserve energy for the efforts in WWI. It was unpopular, was repealed, but reinstated in 1942 when the United States went to war again, and was year-round until 1945.
  • Daylight Saving Time was optional from 1945 until the Uniform Time Act of 1966.
  • About 70 countries observe, or have observed DST at some point. It can still be fairly erratic. Kyrgyzstan began year-round observation in 2005.
For even more than you would ever want to know about Daylight Saving Time, you can visit NPR's Time-Change Timeline, Seize the Daylight, or read the book Seize the Daylight: the curious and contentious story of daylight saving time, by David Prerau.

*Doh! I also learned to day that it's Daylight Saving Time, not Savings.

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