Even though there’s no particular legend associated with the subject, we often receive inquiries from readers wondering how and when we started the annual practice of fiddling with our clocks twice a year, so we’ve put together a brief history of Daylight Saving Time.
Prior to 2007, Daylight Saving Time (the second word is properly singular) began on the first Sunday in April; on that day, clocks were moved forward one hour in each time zone at
The purpose of the shift is to transfer, in effect, an hour’s worth of daylight from the early morning hours of the day, when only milkmen and chickens are awake to appreciate it, and use it to push back sunset until one hour later in the day. This arrangement is claimed to cut electricity usage in the evening and help reduce traffic accidents.
The concept of something much like Daylight Saving Time was referenced by Benjamin Franklin in a satirical 1784 essay titled “An Economical Project.” After several European countries put daylight time into practice during World
Although some cities and states opted to continue daylight time after 1919, it did not return on a national level until World
By 1966 the different daylight time practices throughout the country were a source of difficulty for businesses that had to follow strict time schedules, such as television networks and airlines, so that year Congress passed the Uniform Time Act which specified that Daylight Saving Time begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. (States were still free to pass laws exempting themselves from the daylight time scheme.) After the “energy crisis” of 1973 precipitated by an Arab oil embargo against the U.S., President Nixon signed the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Conservation Act, which put the United States on Daylight Saving Time for the fifteen-month period between January 1974 and April 1975.
In 1986 federal law was amended to start Daylight Saving Time earlier in the year, the change now occurring at
In August 2005, the United States Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which changed the dates of both the start and end of daylight saving time (DST). As of 2007, DST now starts three weeks earlier
Our DSTease page describes how a prankish newspaper editor put one over on the national press with his idea for a Daylight Saving Time “contest” in 1984.
Last updated: 13 March 2016
Downing, Michael. Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard , 2005. ISBN 1-593-76053-1. Prerau, David. Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005. ISBN 1-560-25655-9.