The Switching Hour: 14 Times People Advocated For or Rejected Daylight Saving Time

Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images

If there's anything guaranteed in life, it's that people will complain about daylight saving time. Critics argue it startles the circadian rhythm and increases the risk of heart attack, causes car accidents, and doesn't have many meaningful energy-saving benefits. But the alternatives are hardly perfect: If we make daylight saving time year-round, children in Michigan could wait for the school bus in pitch darkness. And if we nix daylight saving time altogether, New Yorkers could watch the summer sun set at 7:30 p.m. (And that's on the longest day of the year!)

Since there's no winning here, there's always a lot of whining. Here's a brief timeline.

1. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN COMPLAINS ABOUT ALL THE WASTEFUL NIGHT OWLS // 1784

A pocketwatch and picture of Benjamin Franklin
iStock.com, Homiel

A lot of people credit Benjamin Franklin with the idea of daylight saving time, but the claim is a stretch. Franklin believed it was ridiculous—and wasteful—that people slept through morning daylight only to burn candles late at night. In a facetious letter to the editor of The Journal of Paris, he took a potshot at night owls and proposed that everybody wake up at the stroke of dawn, with church bells and cannons acting as society's 6 a.m. alarm: No turning back the clocks necessary!

2. NEW ZEALAND RAILROADS EXPERIMENT WITH STANDARD TIME // 1868

An 1877 lithograph by W.D. Bletchley of Lyttelton Harbour, an inlet in Banks Peninsula on the coast of Canterbury, New Zealand.
An 1877 lithograph by W.D. Bletchley of Lyttelton Harbour, an inlet in Banks Peninsula on the coast of Canterbury, New Zealand.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Before the concept of standard time, clocks were pegged to the motions of the sun—and that meant noon in one town could arrive minutes before noon in a town 100 miles west. For telegraph and railroad operators, this would become incredibly cumbersome. So New Zealand's telegraph department instituted "Wellington mean time," and later that year, their parliament established a consistent time for the whole country. In 1883, railroads in the United States did the same, establishing five standard time zones. People immediately realized that standardization could lead to unusually dark mornings or nights.

3. AN ENTOMOLOGIST ADVOCATES FOR AFTER-WORK DAYLIGHT HOURS // 1895

A drawing of the adult and larvae stage of Pericoptus truncatus, sourced from the book New Zealand Beetles and their Larvae by George Vernon Hudson.
A drawing of the adult and larvae stage of Pericoptus truncatus, sourced from the book New Zealand Beetles and their Larvae by George Vernon Hudson.
George Vernon Hudson, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Realizing that standard time also has its downsides, an entomologist named George Hudson proposed a modern version of daylight saving time, hoping an extra hour of light could help him collect more insects. An abstract showed that nearly everyone hated the idea: "Mr. Hudson's original suggestions were wholly unscientific and impracticable … It was out of the question to think of altering a system that had been in use for thousands of years, and found by experience to be the best. The paper was not practical."

4. A BRIT TRIES THE "WASTE NOT, WANT NOT" ARGUMENT FOR MORE USABLE DAYLIGHT HOURS // 1907

British builder William Willett, circa 1900.
British builder William Willett, circa 1900.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

William Willett, an English builder, proposed daylight saving in a pamphlet entitled The Waste of Daylight, writing, "Nearly everyone has given utterance to a regret that the clear bright light of early mornings, during Spring and Summer months, is so seldom seen or used." He suggested moving the clocks by 80 minutes. A few supporters in Parliament tried to advance the cause for "British Summer Time," but each bill flopped again and again.

5. WARTIME FUEL RATIONING MAKES DAYLIGHT SAVING A MONEY ISSUE // 1916

A Greenwich Mean Time notice in 1916 informs the British public of a change in time as clocks go back an hour during the first year of the daylight saving scheme.
A Greenwich Mean Time notice in 1916 informs the British public of a change in time as clocks go back an hour during the first year of the daylight saving scheme.
Topical Press Agency, Getty Images

In April 1916, Germany started observing daylight saving time in an effort to save fuel. One month later, Britain copied them. (By extending the evening daylight, British industries burned significantly less coal, which was in short supply because of World War I.) The United States and much of Europe followed.

6. CONGRESS OVERRIDES A PRESIDENTIAL VETO IN ORDER TO GET RID OF DST // 1919

A man sits in the driver seat of the first Ford tractor, circa 1920.
A man sits in the driver seat of the first Ford tractor, circa 1920.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, daylight saving did not benefit America's farming class. "The agriculture industry was deeply opposed to the time switch," according to HISTORY. "[H]ired hands worked less since they still left at the same time for dinners and cows weren't ready to be milked an hour earlier to meet shipping schedules." Once the war was over, Congress eagerly repealed daylight saving time. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the repeal, but a strong opposition in Congress overrode his veto.

7. AFTER THE WAR, AMERICAN TIME ZONES BECOME A FREE-FOR-ALL // 1920s

A family plays in the water in 1922.
Topical Press Agency, Getty Images

After World War I, American localities were free to choose whether to continue changing the clocks or not. "What followed was a time of chaos, when municipalities were free to set clocks according to their preferences," according to TIME. "In Colorado, for example, Fort Collins and other cities fell back to standard time, while Denver stuck with daylight saving. Colorado hotels had to keep two clocks in their lobbies: one for Denver time, and one for the rest of the state."

8. BRITAIN DOUBLES DOWN BECAUSE OF ANOTHER WAR // 1942

A British servicewoman sunbathing in her swimsuit and uniform cap, circa 1942.
A British servicewoman sunbathing in her swimsuit and uniform cap, circa 1942.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Shortly after Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a declaration of war, he instituted "War Time," a year-long form of daylight saving intended to provide extra daylight for war industries. In Britain, clocks were turned ahead two hours—what was called "Double Summer Time."

9. ANOTHER WAR ENDS, ANOTHER CHAOTIC TIME ZONE FRENZY ENSUES // 1945

Farm laborers returning home at the end of a day, July 1947.
Farm laborers returning home at the end of a day, July 1947.
J. Wilds/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive, Getty Images

After "War Time" ended, some localities continued to honor the summer time shift and turned the clock whenever they pleased. For the next two decades, chaos reigned. According to HISTORY: "In 1965 there were 23 different pairs of start and end dates in Iowa alone … Passengers on a 35-mile bus ride from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, passed through seven time changes." Finally, in 1966, the Uniform Time Act solved the problem by establishing a nationwide daylight saving period.

10. ARIZONA REFUSES TO PARTICIPATE // 1967

The moon sets over sandstone formations near Round Rock, Arizona.
David McNew, Getty Images

Not everybody was happy. Almost immediately, Arizona—a state that is, admittedly, not lacking sunshine—exempted itself from daylight saving time. (Politicians in Phoenix and Tucson argued that an extra hour of sunlight would actually drain energy, forcing businesses to run their cooling systems for longer.) Michigan joined the southern state's dissent, but voters there reversed that decision in 1972.

11. ANOTHER FUEL CRISIS, ANOTHER TIME SHIFT // 1974

A Texaco petrol station in New York City, circa June 1979.
A Texaco petrol station in New York City, circa June 1979.
Brian Alpert/Keystone/Hulton Archive, Getty Images

The oil crisis prompted Congress to enact the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act, which would have extended daylight saving for 16 months. According to NPR, "The Department of Transportation says the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil each day was saved." But critics disagreed: "This decision did not soften the blow of the OPEC oil embargo, but it did put school children on pitch-black streets every morning," author Michael Downing wrote in The New York Times in 2005. After only eight months, the government reluctantly returned to standard time.

12. RETAIL STORES WANT MORE DAYLIGHT BECAUSE IT INCREASES SHOPPING HOURS // 1986

Customers jostle to get the best crockery bargains on the first day of the Harrod's sale in 1988.
Customers jostle to get the best crockery bargains on the first day of the Harrod's sale in 1988.
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive, Getty Images

After much lobbying, the Chamber of Commerce convinced congress to add an extra (seventh) month of daylight saving time in an effort to encourage shopping. In an interview with NPR, Downing said, "[T]he golf industry alone … told Congress one additional month of daylight saving was worth $200 million in additional sales of golf clubs and greens fees." But not every industry was a winner. Candy manufacturers pushed to extend daylight saving time past Halloween in hopes the extra daylight would boost trick-or-treat sales. Industry lobbyists went as far as to "put candy pumpkins on the seat of every senator, hoping to win a little favor," Downing said, but they failed to get their way.

13. CALI AND THE SUNSHINE STATE WANT MORE SUNSHINE // 2016

A man watching a sunset.
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

California assembly member Kansen Chu proposed eliminating daylight saving time (or, alternatively, adopting it year-round). The measure was adopted two years later; at the same time, the Florida Senate approved the "Sunshine Protection Act," which would make daylight saving time all year. Both laws await federal approval.

14. THE E.U. IS DEBATING A DST-EXIT // 2018

Berlin's landmark TV tower (the Fernsehturm) is pictured at sundown.
Andreas Rentz, Getty Images

In a survey by the European Commission, more than 80 percent of 4.6 million respondents claim they would prefer it if daylight saving time lasted year-round. The European Union is now actively considering whether to stop turning back to standard time—returning Europe back to where it started before World War I, a century ago.

9 Vintage Thanksgiving Side Dishes We Shouldn’t Bring Back

We all have that aunt—the one who’s been bringing her Miracle-Whip-bound pimiento-pea salad to Thanksgiving dinner since time immemorial. Although you may swear she got her recipe straight from the devil, it turns out that cheese-and-lime-Jell-O salads and their ilk were all the rage in her day. So it’s not (totally) her fault! To cut her a little slack, here are some examples of vintage Thanksgiving-themed recipes that will make her salad look like a perfectly golden-brown turkey.

1. CRANBERRY CANDLE SALAD

Best Foods Mayonnaise Ad 1960s with Jello Molds

Nothing complements the tart, refreshing flavor of cranberry sauce like some gelatin and salty, eggy mayonnaise. If that weren’t weird enough, this recipe also tells you to shove a real candle in there and then light it. Ostensibly, you’re supposed to eat around the melted wax, but we can’t be sure—maybe it’s considered a condiment.

2. CANDIED SWEET POTATOES WITH ANGOSTURA BITTERS

This recipe for candied sweet potatoes, which involves baking them in a mixture of butter, sugar, and angostura bitters, is probably either really good or really bad. It sort of makes sense, adding bitters to cut down on the sugar factor. Alternatively, you could just not make a candied version of something that already has the word sweet in its name.

3. CREAMED ONIONS

This once-popular Thanksgiving mainstay has been neglected over the last century, for perhaps obvious reasons. In some households, the idea was to pour creamed onions over the turkey, like gravy, to add a little moisture. Or possibly because eating a chunky mouthful of pearl onions and cream sauce by itself is gross.

4. TURKEY AND STUFFING ON JELL-O

Thanksgiving Jello Ad

There’s not much to this one, is there? It’s a pile of turkey and stuffing dumped on top of a cranberry orange Jell-O ring—sounds delicious!

5. WINTER CORN

This mixture of corn, sour cream, and bacon is sometimes found on Midwestern Thanksgiving tables. It’s mostly off-putting because its main ingredient is creamed corn. That said, creamed corn really needs all the help it can get, so adding bacon can only improve it.

6. SWEET AND SOUR TANG POPCORN (A.K.A. ASTRONAUT POPCORN)

Reportedly, this was a popular Thanksgiving dessert in the ’70s. The idea seems to be an offshoot of caramel corn, but … with Tang powder.

7. HOT DR. PEPPER

You gotta give the good folks at Dr. Pepper a few points for at least trying here. They noticed that soda was not often considered a cozy, comforting holiday drink, and they stepped up to the bat undaunted. Bold move.

8. FROZEN JELLIED TURKEY-VEGETABLE SALAD

There’s only one way to improve a dish as alluring as Jellied Turkey-Vegetable Salad, and that’s to stick it in the freezer. From the sound of the recipe—which combines cream of celery soup, salad dressing, diced turkey, vegetables, and gelatin—this is basically the inside of a turkey pot pie if it was served frozen. And also if it was square.

9. JELL-O FRUIT CORNUCOPIA

Sure, cornucopias were for holding food in olden times, but don’t you wish you could eat one? Well, guess what—your years of longing are finally over, because someone has made a Jell-O version of one with fruit trapped in it. You don’t even have to take the fruit out of the cornucopia this time—you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth. Dreams do come true.

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