The Surprising Story Behind Daylight Saving Time
Did you know that “daylight savings time” is officially known as daylight saving time (DST)? There’s a lot more to DST than setting the clock back or ahead twice a year to save daylight. Here is a brief look at the history of DST and how it is used today.
Candle Wax and Coal: The Origins of Saving Daylight
Benjamin Franklin was the first person to propose the practice of maximizing the daylight hours in his essay “An Economical Project,” which he wrote in Paris in 1784. In the essay, he argues that waking up at daylight and going to bed soon after sundown would save Parisians a substantial amount of candle wax.
But Franklin wasn’t serious about saving daylight. The essay was meant to be satirical, suggesting that those who “have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon” should wake up earlier. Some of his cunning suggestions to enforce daylight saving time included:
- Limiting the amount of candles each family can buy
- Using guards to prevent people from walking on the streets after sundown
- Taxing citizens who kept shutters on their windows to prevent them from blocking the sun out and sleeping in
Franklin also never recommended changing the time to take advantage of daylight. This idea didn’t appear until years later, when George Vernon Hudson proposed it in 1895 and William Willett developed a similar plan in 1905.
No one implemented DST, however, until World War I. Daylight saving was adopted by many European countries and the United States to save fuel for the war, and the practice ended when the war was over. President Franklin D. Roosevelt later brought back DST during World War II.
Saving Daylight Today
Since World War II, many states, territories, and countries have used various forms of DST. This year, daylight saving time is Sunday, March 9th. At 2:00 a.m., the time will move forward to 3:00 a.m., so remember to set your clocks ahead on Saturday night or Sunday morning.
You don’t have to change your clocks, however, if you live in:
- Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation)
- Puerto Rico
- American Samoa
- The Virgin Islands
- The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands
DST is not observed in these areas. You can view the complete list of countries that observe DST at timeanddate.com.
Do We Need Daylight Saving Time?
Although DST has been in practice for years, far from the majority of Americans support it. Some people oppose DST because:
- Farmers face challenges because their animals don’t adjust quickly to the time change.
- DST might not save electricity anymore, especially because air conditioning usage increases when people are awake longer during daylight.
- The risk of heart attacks increases for a couple of days after moving the clock ahead.
On the other hand, DST may make the roads safer for drivers who have early morning commutes. The extra hours of daylight at the end of the day also encourage people to be more active in the evening. That means the golf, gas, and barbecue grill industries see major increases in sales during DST.
What does your child think about daylight saving time? Is it a good practice or should it be changed? Let us know what you think.