Daylight Saving Time: A Brief History

Daylight saving time hasn’t always been part of American life; there was a time when it was just a concept, and one that went through many iterations in practice before the current form was settled on. The reality is that daylight saving was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, and about 100 years later it was instituted in the U.S. as a way to save energy costs and boost the economy.

Franklin first thought about daylight saving time while in Paris in 1784, when he noticed that modern life and the daylight hours didn’t seem to accommodate one another. Franklin thought it would be better to sleep in a bit longer and get more time later in the day to work — without having to spend money on using candles.

“From the very beginning, the basic goal of daylight saving was to move the hours of daylight to better match with the hours of human activity,” said David Prerau, author of Seize the Daylight, in an interview on

Prerau is widely recognized as the leading authority on the concept of daylight saving time.

In the U.S., daylight saving time was repealed by Congress in 1919 before the end of World War I, although some business interests said that they benefited from the practice. New York City also kept using it. But across the country, farmers were heartily against using daylight saving time because it caused a loss of production time and forced them to wake up when it was still very dark outside.

Cities who chose to keep daylight saving time were now out of step with much of the country, and it became extremely confusing as to who was on what time. By the 1960’s, traveling within the U.S. was an extraordinarily confusing venture that would lead travelers to not know what time it was at their destination.

By 1966, Congress decided to make a uniform law that would put the entire country on the same schedule, according to The Fayette Observer. The Uniform Time Act, which made daylight saving time uniform across the U.S., created a new national schedule that still allowed some states to opt out—which Arizona, parts of Indiana, and Hawaii all did.

The time frame was actually extended in 2007, and at one point in the 1970’s it was used throughout the entire year. Now, daylight saving time runs from the second Sunday of March through the first Sunday of November.

There are high financial impacts associated with the practice. An economist by the name of William Shughart said that the estimated cost of daylight saving time nationally is $1.7 billion.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]