Benjamin Franklin, World War 1 and Daylight Saving Time

Set your clock ahead 1 hour before bed Saturday

Benjamin Franklin is sometimes erroneously credited with the idea of Daylight Saving Time.

Franklin discussed the idea of changing sleeping times in a 1784 satirical essay sent to the editor of the Journal of Paris.

"I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was but six o’clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, I looked into the almanac, where I found it to be the hour given for his rising on that day. I looked forward, too, and found he was to rise still earlier every day till towards the end of June; and that at no time in the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o’clock. Your readers, who with me have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon, and seldom regard the astronomical part of the almanac, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his rising so early; and especially when I assure them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this. I am certain of my fact. One cannot be more certain of any fact. I saw it with my own eyes. And, having repeated this observation the three following mornings, I found always precisely the same result."

According to WebExhibits.org, Franklin thought the switchover would be easy with "All the difficulty will be in the first two or three days; after which the reformation will be as natural and easy as the present irregularity."

According to Franklin, if people were to rise an hour earlier, they would willingly go to bed an hour earlier in order to compensate. He also said the citizens of France could save the modern-day equivalent of $200 million on candles because as many wouldn't be needed if people slept when it was dark and awoke when it was light. He even worked out the math.

"I demand neither place, pension, exclusive privilege, nor any other reward whatever. I expect only to have the honour of it," he wrote.

It wasn't until more than 100 years later when Germany became the first country to observe a time change.  On April 30, 1916, Germany began observing daylight saving time to conserve electricity during World War I.  A few weeks later, the United Kingdom followed suit and introduced "summer time." The United States adopted the plan on March 31, 1918, also as a wartime measure.

Farmers in the United States were not happy with the change.  In fact, agricultural interests led the fight for the 1919 repeal of national daylight saving time, which passed after Congress voted to override President Woodrow Wilson's veto. DST went back into for the United States with the Uniform Time Act of 1966 -- standardizing daylight saving time from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.

By the way, it's properly referred to as "Daylight Saving Time" and not "Daylight Savings Time." The word "saving" acts as part of an adjective rather than a verb, the singular is grammatically correct.

Set your clock ahead

Most people in the U.S. are supposed to push the clock forward by 60 minutes before heading to bed Saturday night. Daylight saving time officially begins at 2 a.m. Sunday local time.

You may have lost a bit of sleep, but in the months ahead you'll gain an extra hour of sunlight in the evenings.

It's also a good time to replace batteries in warning devices such as smoke detectors.

The time change isn't observed by Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.

Daylight saving time ends Nov. 1.

Print this article Back to Top