This weekend, it happens. We gain an hour in getting to watch our favorite movies or binge the latest trending TV shows. But is it an hour we really need? Why is this happening? On November 5, everyone in the U.S. excluding Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, will be required to set their watch back an hour starting at 2:00 am Eastern Time. This brings the end of Daylight Savings Time and marks exactly a century since the policy first went into place. 100 years later, some are confused why this policy still stands.
It's a little known fact that President Obama REALLY wanted to abolish Daylight Savings Time, making it one of his priorities before he left office. And it was speculated that he would exact an executive order to get rid of this extra hour. But that never came to pass. Many people think Farming is a thing of the past. But in all actuality, it wasn't the Farmers who campaigned so heavily for Daylight Savings Time. That's a big myth, at least according to Time.
It was those pesky Germans who invented Daylight Savings Time, instilling the policy on May 1, 1916. They believed it would save energy during World War I. Michael Downing writes about the strange practice in his book Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. It's said that the Germans got this bright idea from Britain. But they weren't messing with clocks because they were concerned about fuel. William Willett is said to have been the first person to realize the human race was wasting daylight. In 1907, he published this missive.
"The sun shines upon the land for several hours each day while we are asleep. [There] remains only a brief spell of declining daylight in which to spend the short period of leisure at our disposal."
Willet wasn't too concerned about saving energy. He believed that people should just enjoy more sunlight. And what better way to do that then wind back the clock as if it were a true time machine? Sadly, the man, who lobbied aggressively in Parliament for Daylight Savings Time, passed away one year before it would actually become a thing, dying in 1915. The law passed in England shortly after German made it a real policy.
The U.S. didn't pass the first Daylight Savings Time law until March 19, 1918. And our country did it to save fuel during World War I, a year after the states entered the fray. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce backed the bill. Not for the farmers so much. They believed that if Americans got off work while it was still light outside, they would be more likely to hit the local grocery store in the early evening instead of waiting until the weekend or a day off. But soon, Sports and recreation industries jumped on the bandwagon, seeing this as a great thing for business.
Sale of golfballs rose high in the early years of Daylight Savings Time. And Major League Baseball benefitted too. And students were able to play more sports after school without the use of artificial lighting. And this allowed for later start times. The government back in the early twenties even promoted the fact that Daylight Savings Time was good for your health.
But guess who hated Daylight Savings Time? That's right, Hollywood. The movie industry loathed Daylight Savings Time because audiences were a lot less likely to visit a dark movie house during the bright light of day. And they seriously felt it hurt business. But guess who else wasn't as for Daylight Savings Time as we might think? That's right, the Farmers. Because guess what? Daylight Savings Time meant less time in the morning to tend to milking cows and not enough time to harvest the crops on that local dial. Many believed it was also 'taking us off God's time' as Michael Downing writes in his book. He explains.
"It's so unpopular when we experiment with Daylight Saving Time during World War I that before the Versailles Treaty is signed [at the end of the war], Congress is forced to sign a repeal to quell the revolt from the farm lobby, it's that potent a lobby."
While Daylight Savings Time went away after WWI, it roared back to life in 1942, during WWII. New York City was one place where it was never abolished, as the financial capitol thrived on the extra hours of daylight. At the time, other big cities followed along, and this resulted in major metropolises having Daylight Savings Time while rural areas refused to acknowledge it. As you can imagine, this caused a giant cluster-fart of disjointed time zones where no one could tell what time it actually was. It was confusion across the United States.
Time confusion was out of control by 1966. President Richard Nixon signed the first peacetime Daylight Savings Time law into effect. A new policy was observed that gave the U.S. six months of Daylight Savings Time and six months of Standard time. At the time, individual states could adopt the practice or refuse it. Arizona opted out of the law, because having an extra hour of sunlight during the 100 degree summer didn't make one lick of sense. 7 years later, Nixon decided that Daylight Savings Time needed to be a year-round policy, but that ended due to fear of children getting struck by cars in the dark.
In 1986, the U.S. decided to add an extra month of Daylight Savings Time, observing the law for seven months out of the year. This was to the extreme benefit of the golf and barbecue industry, who claimed the policy brought in an extra $200-$400 million annually. Starting in 2005, the U.S. began observing eight months of Daylight Savings Time. So if you feel like it comes later than it used to, it does!
But do we even still need Daylight Savings Time? The movie industry has embraced daytime matinees. Artificial lighting has done wonders for the golfing industry. And the whole 'saving energy' issue has seriously been called into question over the past few years. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy found only a 0.5% decrease in total electricity used per day since the latest 2005 Daylight Savings Time extension. Some studies show that DST might actually increase energy usage. A 2011 study done in Indiana by economists Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant found that the state was using 4% more energy, during this period, not less.
As of now Daylight Savings Time is still observed mostly because of William Willett's first notion that an extra hour of Daylight is quite enjoyable. And as the darkness sets in early, it makes the American public even more excited for Springtime. It also means that more people will be staying in watching TV, or enjoying that local Drive-In movie theater a few hours early. So, it could be the entertainment industry that benefits the most from the policy as it now sits. Though Obama tried to get rid of Daylight Savings Time, his time in office has come to pass, and he didn't achieve his goal. As of now, Daylight Savings Time does not appear to be on the mind of Donald Trump. We have a feeling it's here to say. So we leave you with one farmer who was never too please with Daylight Savings Time, Grandpa Jones.