Turn Back Time

Posted by Ed Lonsinger on Friday, November 1st, 2019 at 2:19pm.

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As Cher famously sang, “If I could turn back time…”, we too wonder if it’s possible. Can we really control time? We’re most confident that we can. Well, at least twice a year that is. Yes, folks, this weekend marks the bi-annual tradition of adjusting our clocks by an hour to ensure that the Sun revolves around us and our schedules and not the other way...around. Do you know the history behind the tradition? 

Stubborn Americans confidently believe that Benjamin Franklin invented the daylight saving (not savings) tradition. Spoiler alert, he didn’t. While he may have sarcastically suggested it back in the late 1700s, it wasn’t until a hundred years later that the modern concept was adopted. 

While living in Paris in the spring of 1784, he awoke at 6am to the sound of a large crash and was shocked to see that the sun had already risen. Being the eternally thrifty chap, he knew the sunlight was not a commodity to waste, so he decided to write a satirical essay to be published in the Journal de Paris. In it, he mocked the French for being lazy, writing “...your readers, who with me have never seen any sign of sunshine before noon…” He concluded that rising with the sun would save the citizens of Paris a great deal of money and, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, proposed regulations including taxes on window shutters, rationing of candle sales enforced by police guards, a halt to non-emergency coach traffic after dark, and the firing of cannons in every street to get “sluggards” with the program. 

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But thrift wasn't the only reason to save daylight. George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand, came up with the modern concept of daylight saving time in 1895. He proposed a two-hour time shift so he’d have more after-work hours of sunshine to go bug hunting in the summer. Seven years later, British builder (and great-great-grandfather of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin) William Willett proposed the idea to England’s Parliament as a way to prevent the nation from wasting daylight. Winston Churchill and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loved the idea, but it was rejected by the British government. In 1916, two years into World War I, the German government started brainstorming ways to save energy. Remembering Willett’s idea from years earlier, they decided to do it by authoritative decree. Pretty soon almost every country fighting in World War I adopted the practice. 

The US abolished any national daylight saving observing after the war, leaving it as a local option among states. The US government enacted the Standard Time Act in 1918, which established boundaries between standard time zones in the continental United States, but it wasn’t until the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that mandated standard time within the established time zones. It provided for advanced time, where clocks would be advanced one hour beginning at 2am on the last Sunday in April and turned back one hour at 2am on the last Sunday in October. Individual states are allowed to abstain from observing daylight saving time, provided the entire state does so. Arizona and Hawaii are currently the only two states that do not observe. 

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So what do you think? Leave us a comment below. And remember that unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii, it is possible to turn back time!

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