Grafenwoehr, Germany — Most set their clocks forward at the onset of spring, thus adding more sunny hours to the day and beginning daylight saving time. But that’s about to end. Community members in Germany should set their clocks back an hour Sun, Oct. 29 — a full week ahead of the U.S. — to remain on schedule.
A brief history of daylight saving
Though daylight saving has been with our modern world for over a century, the concept of changing our work habits to make optimal use of the sun and its light has been in effect since Rome ruled the world. In fact, Roman water clocks used different scales according to the different months of the year — possibly the first use of the concept.
Early Americans noticed the advantages of using sunlight to save money and encourage increased productivity. In 1784, Benjamin Franklin suggested that the people of Paris use less candle light, thereby saving money on candles by getting out of bed earlier, and making use of the morning light.
On the other side of the world, New Zealand scientist George Vernon Hudson also believed in using sunlight to its full advantage. Over 100 years after Franklin’s famous suggestion, Hudson wrote a paper in which he proposed a two-hour time shift forward in October and a two- hour time shift back in March. Though the idea received widespread interest, the concept wasn’t put into place.
Like an idea too good to forget, daylight saving refused to away.
The first modern use of daylight saving occurred in Ontario, Canada in 1908. The concept was so popular, that laws were written to automatically bring daylight saving into effect every year.
During World War I, Germany became the first country in Europe to use the concept. Clocks were turned ahead one hour on April 30, 1916. It was thought that if days were longer, there would be less fuel used for artificial light, and fuel could be used for the war effort.
The U.S. quickly followed suit, as Woodrow Wilson signed Daylight Savings Time into law, like Germany, to support the war effort. In the U.S., daylight saving was originally called “fast time.” Seven months later, the time change was repealed. Though major cities such as New York and Pittsburg still continued to use the time change. President Franklin Roosevelt signed year-round daylight savings into law in the United States in 1942 during World War II.
While World War II raged, Daylight Savings Time — called War Time during this period — was in effect in the U.S. and Canada from February 1942 to Sept. 1945. During the war, the time zones were labeled Eastern War Time, Central War Time, Mountain War Time and Pacific War Time. As World War II came to a close, the phrase was changed to “Peace Time.”
In 1996, the European Union standardized a “Summertime” period to include all of Europe. Today, the EU’s version of Daylight Savings Time starts the last Sunday in March and runs until the last Sunday in October.
In 1974, the United States Congress extended Daylight Savings Time to 10 months. This was done as a way to save energy due to the 1973 oil embargo. When the energy crisis abated, the Daylight Savings Time schedule in the United States was changed several times. The current schedule began in 2007, and it is aligned with the Energy Act of 2005. Today, U.S. Daylight Savings Time starts the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.
Currently, 70 counties use Daylight Savings Time. Some countries, such as China, India and Japan, do not use Daylight Savings Time. Tropical countries generally do not use Daylight Savings Time, since daylight hours are similar though the year.
Though the exact start and end dates of Daylight Savings Time vary between the United States, Europe and elsewhere, Daylight Savings Time has proven to be popular and practical, and appears to be here to stay.