Setting back the clock this Sunday is not about
gaining an hour of daylight so much as it is regaining the hour lost during daylight saving time in March, according to the nation's official
timekeeper, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. By act
of Congress, civil clocks in most regions of the United States are adjusted
ahead one hour in the spring — Daylight Time — and returned back one hour in
fall to Standard Time.
The idea of saving daylight was the brainchild
of the father of a lot of our country's bright ideas - Benjamin Franklin,
according to Heidi G. Yacker, of
the Congressional Research Service Library, although the idea was not adapted
at the time of his suggestion. In fact, it made a lot of Frenchmen very angry.
When Benjamin Franklin was Minister to France,
he half-jokingly postulated that clocks in France should be reset to allow an
extra hour of daylight during waking hours. He calculated in a 1784 letter to the Journal of Paris that French shopkeepers could save one
million francs a year on candles. He also liked the idea on a personal level,
as he lost a lot of daylight by sleeping so late.
When Congress decided to establish time zones at
the behest of the U.S. and Canadian railroads in 1918, with the Standard Time
Act, it established daylight saving time at the same time. Public protest of
the idea led to repeal of daylight saving time a year later, and instituting
daylight time was left up to municipalities, according to Yacker. But when WWII
came along, it was re-established nationally to save fuel costs for the war
effort, (Mountain Daylight Time was officially referred to as Mountain War
Time, according to www.timeanddate.com) and was continuously observed through
After WWII, its use varied among states and
localities. Congress put an end to that with The Uniform Time Act of 1966, but
allowed for local exemptions from its observance in April and October. To
this day, in fact Hawaii, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands,
parts of Arizona, and most recently, part of Indiana, are exempt. Arizona,
which straddles two time zones, has a climate that favors the evening for sports
and other activities. And farmers in Indiana were concerned about lost planting
time. They also cited University of California research that would cost
Hoosiers much in increased electricity bills, from higher energy costs, as well
as increased pollution emissions.
During the energy crisis of the early to
mid-seventies, Congress enacted earlier starting dates for daylight time, just
as Benjamin Franklin would have appreciated. Congress has tinkered with those
dates until The Energy Policy Act of 2005, changing to our present day March
and November changeovers.