Saturday, March 10, 2018

Springing Forward for Daylight Saving Time

Are you ready to "spring forward" tonight or in the wee hours of Sunday morning?  Change your clocks (if you have to do it manually) before bed?  Lose one hour of sleep?  Have the morning dark continue an hour later, and the evening light last an hour later--at least according to the clock?  These days I don't think we have a choice if we want to arrive at work or other activities on time, keep appointments, and meet deadlines for travel on planes, buses, etc.

In his book Spring Forward:  The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, Michael Downing relates the history of Daylight Saving Time from the time it became law in 1918 as "An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States," to almost the present.  He also discusses the creation of standard time, time zones, the challenges of having no standard time, and plenty more.

Until reading this book I had not realized that prior to this law there was no standard time in the U.S.  Times between cities or farms could vary by a few minutes or as many as 50 minutes.  A 30-minute ride on a train could result in leaving and arriving at the same time.  Crazy.  The railroads needed the standardized time for the trains to run efficiently.

Part of the purpose of changing the clocks was to save fuel, the idea being that less electricity, gasoline, and oil would be used if it were light an hour later in the evening.  Apparently no one thought of the need for lights during the hour of darkness in the morning traded for the hour of light in the evening. 

There were plenty of people who were opposed to Daylight Saving Time:  farmers, theater owners, baseball players (who refused to play under artificial light), those who looked at leisure time with an eye toward laziness, those who thought government was messing with "God's time."  And there were those who loved it:  golfers, factory workers, automobile manufacturers (because auto sales increased), those who thought it saved fuel, and anyone who wanted an additional hour of light at the end of the day for leisure activities.  Some people and cities chose to change their clocks, others didn't.  It seems that New York City's choice to adopt Daylight Saving Time was the push needed for other cities to adopt it as well.

I searched for an online newspaper contemporary with my farming ancestors in Mercer and Butler Counties, Pennsylvania, which mentioned Daylight Saving Time with the hope of learning how those in the community felt about its adoption.  I guessed that my farmers, Fred Gerner and William and Gust Doyle, would not have been in favor of the change.  For one thing, they couldn't harvest dew-covered crops and would, therefore, have had to wait an additional hour before beginning some of the day's work.

Nothing from their area came to light but I did found "Daylight-Saving Petitions" on the front page of the Wednesday, September 3, 1919, edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph.
   Daylight saving petitions which the Harrisburg Telegraph was asked to prepare for the great number of Harrisburg folks who want an extra house of sunshine during the summer months now are ready for distribution.
   The petitions are directed to members of Council and call upon the City Commissioners to pass a daylight saving measure for the months of May, June, July, August and September.
   These petitions may be circulated by baseball players, amateur gardeners, golfers, fishermen and all others who have benefited by the extra hour of daylight.  Any man or woman who desires to stave off darkness next summer may secure one of the petitions or sign one in the business office of this newspaper.

Benjamin Franklin has been attributed as the first person to propose the idea of changing the clocks.  He did not propose changing the hands of the clock but suggested that people get up earlier in the morning to take advantage of every hour of daylight.  Wasn't Franklin a wise man to realize that no matter what you do with the hands of a clock, there are a set number of hours and minutes the sun will shine on any given day?  As if turning the hands of the clock will "save" the daylight, prevent its going, and prevent the sun's setting!

If you're still reading I'm sure you realize by now that I'm not a fan of Daylight Saving Time.  I'm not a morning person but the earlier the sun rises by the clock, the earlier I awake and arise.  I dislike giving up an hour of morning sun only to have it tacked on to the end of the day.  Where I live the sun rose at 6:51 a.m. this morning.  It will not rise at 6:51 a.m. again until April 17, more than five weeks from now.  And that's saving daylight?

Do you like of Daylight Saving Time?  Do you know if your ancestors who lived after 1918 had any opinions about it? 


P.S.  For more about Daylight Saving Time and its history, see

Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Nancy, this is a wonderful post. I have read something of the history of the time changes but I have never understood why. I'd love to get rid of it. Arizona & Hawaii have the right idea. OF course, they have more sunshine than hours in the day. ha! I don't know what my ancestors thought about this issue but I know my mother thought it was a mistake. Thanks for your post.

    1. Thank you and you're welcome, Colleen. I wish everyone agreed with our point of view!


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