Springing Forward And Falling Back: The History Of Daylight Saving

By | November 7, 2022

test article image
Daylight savings time. (Anna Blazhuk/Getty Images)

All the way back in 1784, American polymath Benjamin Franklin suggested that everybody wake up earlier in the summer to keep from burning so many darn candlesticks every year, but it took until 1908, when Canada decided to take the reins and implemented the world's very first daylight saving time on July 1, for countries to take the concept of syncing the waking world with the rising of the sun seriously. As World War I broke out over Europe, other countries followed suit to keep energy costs low as coal became an increasingly precious commodity.

By 1918, many countries were still practicing daylight saving, the United States being one of them. However, not everyone was happy about the shift, most notably farmers. Because workers wanted to keep the same hours due to personal and religious commitments, farmers had to deal with a whole new hassle with regard to shipping schedules that interfered with the animals' natural rhythms, especially when it came to things like milking. The agricultural industry lobbied hard against it and managed to get it repealed on the federal level only a year later.

test article image
Poster issued by the United Cigar Stores Company in the United States to promote daylight saving time in 1918 during World War I. (Princeton University Poster Collection/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite this, many states embraced the change, as it did save costs in urban areas that relied heavily on electricity. When World War II broke out, the nation again moved toward the practice, and after the resulting mess of no one ever knowing what time it was in what state, the federal government again stepped in and passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966.

However, the dust was not settled when it came to the changing of the clocks. Not even a decade later, the world felt another fuel crunch when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Communities (OAPEC) instituted an oil embargo in October 1973 against the nations that had been supportive of Israel during the Fourth Arab–Isreali War, so the United States gave a year-long daylight saving time a trial run. Initially, citizens were all for summer hours all year, but that enthusiasm evaporated quickly after a rise in traffic accidents that resulted in the deaths of many schoolchildren. In 1975, the country went back to changing time twice a year.