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When did we start saving daylight?

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

Today marks the end of daylight saving time, at least until next year. Setting clocks back in the Fall and then winding them forward in the Spring seems commonplace now, but this was not always the case. America’s experiment with saving sunshine began a century ago in this country but America was not the first place this technique was tried.

The first country to adopt daylight saving time was Germany in 1916, two years after the fighting began in the Great War, known today as World War One. Clocks in the German Empire and its ally Austria were turned ahead one hour April 30, 1916, in an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power by minimizing the use of artificial lighting.

Most European countries adopted daylight saving time very soon after Germany. Great Britain followed suit May 21, 1916. In 1917, Australia and Newfoundland began saving daylight.

On March 19, 1918, the United States passed a resolution that formally recognized times zones that had been established by the railroads many years before, as well as establishing daylight saving time. Clocks were to be advanced one hour on the last Sunday of March and set back to standard time on the last Sunday of October.

This didn’t last however, as the law proved so unpopular that Congress repealed the act with an override of the President’s veto in 1919, after which, daylight saving time became a local option observed by only a few states. Most European countries reverted to standard time after the war as well.

It took another World War for daylight saving time to again become the law of the land in the U.S. In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round daylight saving time called “War Time” from Feb. 9, 1942, until Sept. 30, 1945. From 1945 to 1966, there was no federal law regarding daylight saving time, so states and localities were free to choose whether or not to observe it and could choose when it began and ended.

The confusion wrought by this hodgepodge of daylight saving time zones was best illustrated by the road connecting Moundsville, West Virginia, and Steubanville, Ohio, where time zones changed seven times on a 35 mile stretch of highway.

This ended when Congress passed the Time Uniform Act of 1966. This once again established daylight saving time in the United States, which would begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. Any state that wanted to be exempt could do so by passing a state law.

In 1986, the law was amended to begin daylight saving time on the first Sunday of April. In 2007, it was changed to its present configuration so that clocks are set ahead on the second Sunday of March and set back to Standard Time on the first Sunday of November.

Countries belonging to the European Union observe daylight saving time as well, with theirs beginning on the last Sunday in March and ending on the last Sunday of October. Most Asian and African nations do not observe daylight saving time, while most North American and European Countries do.

But there is still some divergence, as neither Arizona or Hawaii observe daylight saving time. Apparently they have enough sunshine saved up as it is.

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