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Daylight Saving Time History

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First of all, I want to correct a common mistake. The term is Daylight Saving Time and not Daylight Savings Time.



Next: Remember to “spring ahead” on Sunday, 3/8/2015 at 2:00 a.m.



Daylight Saving Time lets us utilize more daylight hours in the summer by moving our clocks an hour forward in the spring.  However, convincing people to “buy-in” to the concept has been an interesting challenge from the time that Benjamin Franklin conceived of the idea. Even today, the concept is being challenged.

Benjamin Franklin

According to Daylight Saving Time WebExhibits: The concept of Daylight Saving Time came from Benjamin Franklin, when he was 78 years old, in 1784 while he was an American delegate in Paris, France. One night, he went to bed at 3am and was awakened at 6am in the morning by a sudden noise. He discovered that his room was filled with sunlight, even at 6am. He checked the almanac that he authored (Poor Richard’s Almanac) to compare the hour that he normally woke up while in the United States. He thumbed the pages of his almanac for several months to find that he got up earlier every morning toward the end of June and discovered that throughout the year he delayed his bedtime to be able to enjoy as much daylight as possible.

Always the thrifty person, he calculated how many candles were burned by the population of France during the winter months as compared to the summer months. His calculation showed that there are 183 nights between March 20th and September 20th. He then calculated the amount of tallow and wax that it took to make one candle and how long each candle burned and then multiplied that by the 100,000 families that lived in Paris at the time. The total amount was 96,075,000 livre tournis (the French currency from 781 to 1795) or in today’s terms would be equal to $384,300,000 (US Dollars). One thing led to the next and I’ll let you follow the thought process.

However, I also found it interesting that in order to convince the Parisians to agree to going to bed earlier and getting up earlier (to save candles):

  • A tax was to be levied on every home that had shutters on them to keep out the sunlight.
  • Candles were rationed and enforced by the police.
  • Guards were posted to stop all coaches from traveling on the streets after sunset except for doctors, surgeons and midwives.


  • Every morning as soon as the sun rose, church bells rang and if people did not get up, cannons where shot off to wake up those who tried to sleep late.

When people finally acquiesced, church bells and cannons were replaced by changing the hands on the clock to move forward one hour in the spring and returned back to normal in the fall (autumn); hence the saying “Spring ahead, Fall back”.

The United States began observing Daylight Saving Time when the Standard Time Act of March 19, 1918 was established, mostly to help conserve fuel for World War I and known as the “Standard Time Act”. The concept was extremely unpopular in the United States and therefore, Congress ended Daylight Saving Time after the war. However, on February 9, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt initiated Daylight Saving Time again to conserve fuel and energy for World War II and it has been observed since that time, despite the fact that Congress has tinkered with the start date and stop date.

The Uniform Time Act went into effect on April 13, 1966, mandating that Daylight Saving Time begin on the last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October, which went into effect in 1967. Up until that time, the use varied in different states and even different localities within the states. The Uniform Time Act provided standardization in all locations; however, allowed for some local exemptions.

In 1973, Congress stepped in again to declare a year round use of Daylight Saving order to save energy during the energy crisis years.

Las Vegas Showgirl

NOTE: I lived in Las Vegas during that time and it was very sad to see all of the lights along the famous Las Vegas strip were turned off. Also Christmas lights were banned in many states.

The date was again changed in 1986 for Daylight Saving Time to start the first Sunday in April rather than the last Sunday in April.

When Congress established the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and effective in 2007, clocks were to be set ahead one hour commencing at 2:00 a.m. on the 2nd Sunday each March and set back one hour at 2:00 a.m. the first Sunday in November rather than the 1st Sunday in April and the last Sunday in October. This anticipated hope was to have fewer accidents that happened on Halloween by trick-or-treaters.

The main purpose of Daylight Saving Time is to make better use of daylight. We change our clocks during the summer months to shift one hour of sunlight from the morning to the evening and return the clocks back in the autumn.

There are many interesting facts and stories such as why 2:00 a.m. is the official time to change the clocks, robberies that went wrong due to the time change, and some fun stories. I will share more tidbits in an article I will post right before when Daylight Saving Time ends on November 1, 2015


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