This Sunday, March 8th, marks the beginning of Daylight Savings Time in the United States, much to the delight of many outdoors enthusiasts who now have a little more daylight each evening to spend some time cycling, hiking, running, paddling, and just about anything else. Though only a fixture on and off in the US for roughly the last 100 years, DST was originally conceived thousands of years ago to help provide agrarian societies with more daylight to farm and work in the fields, with peoples like the ancient Romans adjusting their schedules during different times of year based on the sun. In honor of the impending time change, here’s a brief history of DST in the US and around the world:
1784 – Benjamin Franklin proposes a form of Daylight Savings Time in “A Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.” In his essay, he half-seriously called for an adjustment of Parisian clocks at certain times of year to maximize daylight during waking hours and lessen the use of candles and oil lamps for light. The idea was never officially adopted, and it took more than 100 years for similar proposals to resurface with any traction.
1895-1905 – Multiple separate proposals are made globally for seasonal time changes. George Vernon Hudson, of New Zealand, and William Willett, of England, campaigned independently for the use of some form of DST just a few years apart from each other. Hudson advocated for turning clocks forward two hours in October and turning them back two hours in March, creating more daylight during the summer months (this is the opposite of what we would have done in the Northern Hemisphere, where the seasons are opposite those of the Southern Hemisphere). Willett proposed pushing clocks forward 20 minutes on each of the four Sundays in April and pushing them back in equal increments on the four Sundays in September. Both of these plans gained some attention in their respective countries, with Willett’s plan making it far enough to be put up for a vote in the English Parliament in 1909, but neither plan became official policy.
1916 – Germany becomes the first country to implement a national daylight savings program, using it as a strategy to save fuel resources during World War I. Britain, the United States, and others adopted similar programs soon after for the same reason, but they were short-lived. By the time the war ended in 1918, public support for these energy savings programs had waned, falling out of use in most places. President Woodrow Wilson repealed the federal mandate for Daylight Savings Time in 1919, allowing state and local governments to decide independently whether or not to continue to keep the program in place. Only a handful of localities maintained DST schedules during the inter-war period, including notable cities like Pittsburgh, Boston, and New York City.
1942 – In the wake of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and the US entry into World War II, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented “War Time,” shifting clocks forward one hour year-round. Britain implemented a similar program during WWII, adding an extra hour on top of the American schedule during the summer months only, which they called “Double Summer Time.” These DST programs lasted until the War’s end in 1945.
1966 – After the end of WWII, President Truman allowed US states and cities to once again choose whether or not they wanted to continue to utilize the DST schedule. This created consistent confusion across the US, especially for trains, buses, and the broadcast industry, as schedules varied from place to place. In 1966, the federal government passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which established a nationwide DST schedule beginning on the last Sunday of April and ending on the last Sunday of October, though states could still apply for exemptions if they wanted to. Britain has continued to maintain a one-hour time shift during the summer months since almost every year since 1945.
2005 – The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was passed in the United States, which extended the Daylight Savings Time period in an effort to promote increased energy efficiency. These changes officially took effect in 2007, establishing the current DST schedule of a one-hour shift forward on the second Sunday in March and a one-hour shift back on the first Sunday in November.
Today – Currently, more than 70 countries observe some form of Daylight Savings Time, though start and end dates vary by country. In total, more than 1 billion people are affected by officially-legislated time change policies annually. Notably, large global population centers like China, India and Brazil do not observe any form of Daylight Savings Time. Every state in the US currently observes DST except Hawaii and some parts of Arizona, both of which have requested exemptions from the federal time schedule. Because of the warm climates in those states, residents have preferred to maintain standard time year-round, as less evening sunlight allows residents to take advantage of cooler temperatures and spend more time outdoors when it’s not prohibitively hot.
The beginning of Daylight Savings Time means the official start of spring is just around the corner! Soon enough, we’ll be taking advantage of the extra sunshine hours with weekly sand volleyball every Tuesday at 6pm in Centennial Park (beginning April 7th) and weekly Yoga In the Park, which starts on Tuesday, May 26th. We’ll also be adding some evening mountain bike rides to the calendar as the weather warms up, so keep your eyes peeled for those to be posted in coming weeks. Enjoy the extra evening daylight, Nashville!
– Matt (Team Green’s Events Coordinator)