Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, March 1, 2019

Spring Forward and Save!

Daylight Savings Times becomes effective, this year (2019), in slightly more than one week.  Reviewing DST and the history seems appropriate to appreciate the experiment.  The idea originated more than 200 years ago, yet, came into common use with the beginning of World War One.  Even today it remains a confusing experiment in time.

Benjamin Franklin proposed a form of daylight savings time in 1784.  While touring France, he wrote an essay, “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” proposing Parisians could save the cost of candles if they were to rise from bed an hour earlier each day. Using natural light to start the work day would lead to significant savings.  Many readers regarded his suggestion as an attempt at humor and was not taken seriously. 
The start of World War One, Germany and her allies adopted a form of daylight savings time to save on the short supplies of coal and other fuels necessary for the war effort.  The United States adopted the Standard Time Act on March 3, 1918.  The idea of daylight savings was so offensive Congress ended the practice with the end of the war in November 1918.

The second war “to end all wars” witnessed the resumption of daylight savings.  Franklin Roosevelt ordered DST beginning February 9, 1942.  Known as “war time” the practice remained in place until September 1945.  In Sherburne County, the newspapers seemed neutral about this unique war sacrifice.  Daylight saving “will not mean so much of a saving this time of year,” the Sherburne County Star News commented in February 1942.  “It will make a big difference in mid-summer,” the paper suggested, “Sherburne county residents will see daylight at 10 pm in midsummer.”  

With the end of the war, DST also ended.  However, some states chose to keep the practice.  For twenty years, confusion of time seemed common. In 1966 the transportation industry insisted a consistent time standard be adopted.  Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, mandating daylight savings time beginning in 1967.  However, state options to reject, or expand, DST remain in place to this day.

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