Daylight Savings Time A Century Ago

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Daylight time, a monstrosity in timekeeping.

Harry Truman





As you “lose” an hour of sleep tomorrow, please recall the history of this bad idea.  Daylight Savings Time in the US was ushered in by Congress on March 19, 1918 with the Standard Time Act of 1918 as a temporary war measure, and, son of a gun, Daylight Savings Time was repealed by Congress in 1919, over the veto of President Wilson.  Daylight Savings Time came back with World War II.  From 1945-1966 local communities were left to determine whether to observe Daylight Savings Time which normally ran from April to September.  Congress in 1966 made Daylight Savings Time national with the Uniform Time Act, with Daylight Savings Time running from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.  In response to the Energy Crisis on 1973, Congress started Daylight Savings Time in 1974 on January 6 and in 1975 on February 23.  Parents were real thrilled with their kids walking to school in the dark and the start and stop dates for Daylight Savings Time went back to April and September in 1976.  Congress in 2005 tinkered with Daylight Savings Time again, setting it from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.

It is arguable that Daylight Savings Time has never made sense, but it certainly does not today in a global economy and e-commerce 24-7.  Time to do away with this annoying anachronism.

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  1. I might be wrong, but I thought the change in 2007 was from the Bush White House, with Congress just going along with it. At least I remember Bush talking it up. Again, not sure.

  2. I have no beef with the concept behind DST — if we didn’t have it, sunrise in June and July would be around 4:30 am and sunset around 7:30 pm, so I see no harm in shifting those times ahead an hour. However, I agree that DST starts too early in the year and ends too late under the current system. I’d prefer to revive the mid/late April to late October schedule that was used in the 1980s and 90s.

  3. Personally I like DST. But that’s just me. And, as a bonus, this year the early time change spares me from having to drive out of town this Thursday afternoon in the dark. I like long summer evenings.

  4. I am a morning person, so DST does nothing for me. Its preservation is largely due, I am reliably told, to intense lobbying at both federal and state levels by the restaurant and hotel industries, which believe they make more money when daylight “lasts longer.” These same lobbies are also behind the absurd public school schedule in my home state of Texas, with multiple week- or two-week-long “breaks” that push the first day of school into mid-August, when triple-digit temperatures are common and upper 90’s the norm.

  5. The year round DST was one of the many Nixon-era cock-ups. At my school, kids were arriving each day covered with reflective tape or festooned with bright orange armbands because their mothers were anxious they’d be run over walking to school and walking to bus stops in the dark (which a few of them were in my town – made the papers every time). I assume there are latitudes where no daylight until 9:00 in the morning is unremarkable, but it sure was disconcerting where we lived.

  6. Its preservation is largely due, I am reliably told,

    I suspect most of what’s in the law codes owes its preservation to inertia – not to a lobby protecting it, but to the absence of a lobby wishing to eliminate it. Our law codes could do with a good power washing, but most legislators are adept only at spinning their wheels over trivia.

  7. Let us dump this practice this very year! It is absurd. Think about it. Changing your circadian rhythm twice a year. Not healthy.

  8. Elaine Krewer wrote, “if we didn’t have it, sunrise in June and July would be around 4:30 am and sunset around 7:30 pm.”
    Where I live, in Ayrshire, Scotland, sunrise on 21 June would be 03.31 and sunset 21.06. About 17½ hours of daylight.

  9. *checks El Paso*

    Our sunrise would be 4:59, and sunset a 7:10.

    I could handle that, especially since it would mean fewer exhaustion based traffic deaths, and the sun would actually be at high noon for high noon.

    My valley up in Washington had sunrise at about 9:30, and sunset about 2:30, for the middle of the winter. (North-south valley. Mountains in the way. 🙂 )

    People managed, and DST costs a lot.

    Note: this is a very polite form of what I’d like to say, since my dear husband is out of town and I had to wake up five children and get them dressed, an hour earlier than usual, then try to keep them sane, and nearly got t-boned TWICE in the parking lot. Just basic “I am freaking exhausted” type traffic accidents.

  10. Two things.
    First, I don’t care which of the two it is, but just stick to one. People and society will naturally adjust themselves. If it’s lighter an hour earlier from April through October, and people want to feel like they “stayed up later,” they’ll have to wake up earlier, as the sun comes up, and stay out until the sun is barely down. Just pick one and let people adjust.
    Second, I think a person’s opinion this is heavily affected by where in the time zone and even latitude the person resides. Growing up in eastern Wisconsin, at the extreme end of Central Standard Time, the sun set in the winter months close to 4:00 pm, impacted by the significant northern latitude of the state. With current dates, it sets before 5:00 pm almost all of Nov thru Jan.
    I’d probably prefer to have day light as late as possible year-round, but it would be nice to just stick to one and let people adjust.

  11. “I think a person’s opinion on this is heavily affected by where in the time zone and even latitude the person resides.”

    I probably should clarify that I have lived my entire life in central or north-central Illinois between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and 89 or 90 degrees west longitude, the latter being right smack in the middle of the Central Time Zone.

    Consulting an online time and date chart for Springfield, Ill., I see that our earliest sunrise occurs at 5:29 a.m. CDT, between June 11 and June 17; astronomical twilight (when you see the first signs of light in the eastern sky) begins at 3:27 a.m. CDT and civil twilight (when it gets light enough to see outdoors without artificial light) at 4:57 a.m. during that period. So with Daylight Time, in mid-summer, it’s getting light outside as early as 4 a.m.; without it, the crack of dawn would strike around 3 a.m., way too early for anyone other than farmers, third-shift workers and chronic insomniacs to benefit from it. And that is why I don’t mind having Daylight Time during the summer months when we really need it.

    Now, looking at the other end of the scale, the earliest sunset occurs from Dec. 4-11 at 4:33 p.m. CST. The latest sunrises, however, occur about a month later, at 7:20 a.m. CST, from Jan. 3-6, with astronomical twilight starting at 5:43 a.m. and civil twilight at 6:49 a.m. If DST were in effect that time of year in central Illinois you would have it staying dark well past 7 a.m. and only “delaying” sunset to about 5:30 or 5:45 p.m., which hardly seems worth the effort. (That is how I remember the year-round DST experiment in the mid-70s — trekking off to school in January with it still being dark at nearly 8 a.m.) But as they say, your mileage may vary.

  12. Elaine, it’s odd, but before I checked, I would have thought that December 21st was both the latest sunrise and the earliest sunset. You learn something new every day.

    I think people would be forced to adjust if we just made a change one way or another. Businesses, schools, whatnot. If we moved DST to the winter, and the sun didn’t get up until 8:15 or so, I wonder if it would encourage us to start work later, sleep in more, as most of us need more sleep.

    When I was growing up, I remember the sun setting as I was driven home from school, and how depressing that was!

  13. we spend most of the year on daylight savings time. Just leave it on daylight savings time year round. I don’t want standard time with sunset at 7 PM in summer. It is nice to have some daylight after I get home from work in the summer and I want to keep it.

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