Most people say that we go on daylight saving to benefit farmers or to save energy. And most people think the rule was foisted on us by government. In fact,
farmers originally hated daylight saving, because it meant they had to get up earlier. No one knows whether it saves energy. And not only was it not a
idea, except for emergency measures during the world wars, there was no national law until 1966.
idea of daylight saving seems to have originated with Benjamin Franklin, who noticed in Paris in 1784 that most people snoozed away hours on summer mornings
after the sun was up yet complained about the
cost of candles. Tongue probably in cheek, he observed shrewdly in a newspaper column that ''the
gave light as soon as he rose." He proposed that church bells be rung at sunrise -- and if that didn't get people up, a cannon be fired in every street.
World War I, Germany went on daylight saving to improve war production, and in 1917 Britain followed suit. The United States adopted it in 1918 but repealed
it the following year, largely because of intense opposition from farmers. Still,
the idea had a powerful advocate: Wall Street. Before Britain and the United States adopted daylight saving, there had long been a five-hour difference between New York and London. The
London Exchange closed at 3 p.m.,
which meant that when the New York Exchange opened at 9 a.m., it was 2 p.m. in London, providing one hour of frantic arbitrage, in which price differences between the
exchanges could be exploited.
Britain went on daylight saving and the United States followed, the one-hour window remained open. But after Congress repealed daylight saving in 1919, the window slammed. There were now
six hours between the cities. When
New York opened at 9, London was closing at 3 p.m. So the New York Stock Exchange decided to stick with daylight saving just for trading hours. The Boston and Philadelphia
exchanges followed suit.
It wasn't only Wall Street. Department stores liked daylight saving, too. One big promoter was Boston's A. Lincoln Filene, who wanted factory workers to have
more light for shopping after their work day ended.
1920, New York's commissioner of public health, noting that tenement life tended to exacerbate tuberculosis, argued that with an extra hour of light, children would have more time to play
outside. And there was the energy
argument, though it has remained difficult to prove. Despite the farmers, the rising middle class wanted more daylight for leisure, or to cook out or putter in
their gardens. After-school sports
opened up completely, because the evenings were suddenly available.
got behind it early, because they didn't have lighting, and evening games kept ending in ties. In the first season of daylight saving, ties were reduced from 22 to none. Golf was a big winner,
too, because courses can't be illuminated.
Daylight saving, combined with the rise of superstar Bobby Jones in
1920s, set off a wave of golf-course building across the country.
1920, New York City passed a daylight-saving ordinance and was followed by other big cities as far west as Chicago, and one state, Massachusetts, in 1921. By 1928, Downing writes, 25 million people
were saving daylight, in cities
and counties scattered across 16 states. But it was a jolting bandwagon
a multitude of drivers. Rules varied widely. Rutland, Vt., started in May, while Auburn, Maine, started in June. Some localities saved daylight for three months, others for five.
adopted daylight saving again during World War II and again went back in 1945, and the old disorder resumed. By 1950, 50 million people saved daylight; 90 million didn't. Only 18 states
had it as late as 1965, and even
after the Uniform Time Act of 1966, there were opt-outs. Clusters of counties in Indiana have it, while others don't. In 1986, Congress moved the start date from the last weekend
in April to the first.
there has always been opposition to daylight saving (a repeal petition, with arguments, can be found at www.standardtime.com, polls since the 1940s have consistently showed
majorities in favor -- and some
support for making it year-round, as it was briefly nationwide in the 1970s. Some say, for industries like barbecue and golf, and other leisure activities associated with the sun, every
additional week of daylight saving
means millions of dollars in additional sales.
the custom rests on an illusion: that we are doing something to time -- yielding an hour in the spring, recovering it in the fall. Of course, it's not so. Every
day, year round, has 24 hours. All we do when we turn our clocks ahead is move our work, business, or school activities backward, closer to sunrise, which
means more hours between ''quitting time" and the onset of darkness.
Here are some known arguments:
Saving Time saves energy. Based on consumption figures for 1974 and 1975, The Department of Transportation says observing
Daylight Saving Time in March and April saved the equivalent in energy of 10,000 barrels of oil each day -- a total of 600,000
barrels in each of those two years. California Energy Commission studies confirm a saving of about one percent per day.
Saving Time saves lives and prevents traffic injuries. The earlier Daylight Saving Time allowed more people to travel home
from work and school in daylight, which is much safer than darkness. And except for the months of November through February,
Daylight Saving Time does not increase the morning hazard for those going to school and work.
Saving Time prevents crime. Because people get home from work and school and complete more errands and chores in daylight,
Daylight Saving Time also seems to reduce people's exposure to various crimes, which are more common in darkness than in light.
But...the REAL reason is one hyphenated word: