Most of the United States will “spring forward” this weekend, as we enter Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. – which will immediately become 3:00 a.m. – Sunday morning. There is a lot of history connected with Daylight Saving Time.
Benjamin Franklin proposed a form of daylight time in 1784. He wrote an essay “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” to the editor of The Journal of Paris, suggesting, somewhat jokingly, that Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning, making use of the natural morning light instead. This 1784 satire proposed taxing window shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise. Despite common misconception, Franklin did not actually propose Daylight Saving Time. In fact, clocks were not synchronized in Europe at that time; each owner of a clock would set it to whatever time he or she thought was correct. Standardized time did not occur until railroads became popular. Train schedules had to be planned for designated times.
New Zealander George Hudson proposed the idea of daylight saving in 1895. The German Empire and Austria-Hungary organized the first nationwide implementation, starting on April 30, 1916.
In March 1918, the United States adopted Daylight Saving Time, with a goal of saving energy during World War I. Repealed in August 1919, Daylight Saving Time would not be observed nationally again until 1942, with the U.S. embroiled in another world war.
Daylight Saving Time probably made sense back in 1918 when the primary use of electricity was to illuminate incandescent lights. However, incandescent lights only account for a small percentage of the electricity consumed today. Controversy about the usefulness of Daylight Saving Time continues today.