History of daylight saving time includes Benjamin Franklin, chickens and war

Don’t forget to change your clocks

ORLANDO, Fla. – This Sunday, daylight saving time will end and clocks will turn back an hour.

The change sparks debate every spring and fall, but it goes back a lot longer than you might think.

Benjamin Franklin to blame?

The first mention of saving daylight was in “An Economical Project” proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. Although electrical powered homes weren’t a thing during this time, the proposal was to save the expense of candlelight. It is all about the Benjamins after all, right?

Benjamin Franklin on the $100 U.S. bill. (Pixlr)

This wasn’t the beginning of changing time, but more like the brain-storming stage. Many claimed it was a joke, but it put the thought out there and has impacted our future since.

Will the real founder please stand up?

Skip ahead over a hundred years to 1907 and the thought of wasting daylight was up for debate. A builder in London by the name of William Willet was riding his horse to work one bright morning and noticed all the shutters to homes still closed.

question mark (WKMG)

Willet did the math and came up with a proposal. During his “Waste of Daylight” campaign, Willet claimed nearly 210 hours of daylight weren’t being used because people weren’t awake and that it was a “defect in our civilization.” The suggestion to adjust the clock time was met with a morality debate. The community claimed that it was a “sin of lying” about true time, so the proposal never went through.

Time change wars

In 1914, World War I began and thoughts began to change. During 1915, Germany became the first to change time in order to conserve coal to heat homes. Britain and the United States followed suit. The U.S. adopted the time change in 1917. During the war, there wasn’t much said about the time change. That changed in 1918.

1813: The nickname "Uncle Sam" is first used as a symbolic reference to the United States, most likely because of the shared abbreviation of U.S. The reference appeared in an editorial in the New York's Troy Post. (Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-03521)

Farmers, contrary to popular belief, were not fans of this time change. They claimed the move only benefitted those who worked in city offices. When the time was adjusted, farmers were forced to do their early morning duties in darkness and looked at the change as catering to white collar workers so they could enjoy the daylight on the ride home from work.

A total of 28 bills to repeal daylight saving time were submitted to Congress and won after only tolerating the time change for seven months.

World War II erupted and by 1941 daylight saving time was once again implemented to save fuel. Post-war, the time change debate was back. This time, some states chose to keep the change while others didn’t. To make matters worse, some states that chose to keep the time change chose their own time to implement. The mess went on for years until the Uniform Time Act was passed by Congress in 1966 that established a consistent use of daylight saving time.

Even then, some states and counties chose not to implement the time change by using loopholes. By 1986, Congress adjusted the period of time daylight saving time would last in an effort to conserve oil used to generate electricity. It was moved to the first Sunday of April. The period of time was adjusted again in 2005 by the Energy Policy Act to the second Sunday in March through the first Sunday in November. Hawaii and Arizona are the only two states that do not observe the time change, in addition to many territories.

Chickens, cows, and little children don’t care about clocks

A chicken stands watch h in a coop at the Quill's End Farm, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Penobscot, Maine. A ballot question in will give Maine voters a chance to decide on a first-in-the-nation "right to food amendment."AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

To date, the controversy over time change continues. Medical professionals say the change takes a toll on human health both mentally and physically. Parents with young children struggle with cranky kids who often don’t get enough sleep until fully adjusted to the time change, which can take several weeks. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, parents aren’t the only ones who face challenges. Farmers who have opposed daylight saving time for generations say their animals don’t care about clocks. One poultry farmer claimed it took weeks for the chickens to adjust to the time change, adding additional stress during the beginning April and the end of October. Cows are also stressed when their milking time is moved. They’re not exactly easy to move given their size and they don’t care about the time the clock claims it to be. Mother Nature is the ultimate time keeper here.

There are 33 states that currently oppose the time change that have submitted legislation. Florida is one of them, pushing to “lock the clock” in the United States with a new bill that’s part of the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021. You can read more about the bill by clicking here.


About the Author:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.