Daylight Saving Time ends tonight, meaning clocks are turned back and the U.S. gains an hour of time.
This weekend, at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, Daylight Saving Time ends and most U.S. cities will fall back an hour. Many people would like to permanently abolish the increasingly controversial practice, although most do not mind the extra hour of sleep they get in the fall. The U.S. is only on Standard Time for four months out of the year, meaning the country is actually on Daylight Saving Time for eight months. Some states do not observe the biannual time change: both Hawaii and Arizona have opted out.
Tonight the U.S. falls back on Halloween night. In 2005 the change from Daylight Saving Time back to Standard Time was changed from October to November in large part due to Halloween. Lobbyists who supported candy manufacturers pushed for the extra hour of daylight for trick-or-treat, thereby increasing candy purchases.
Daylight Saving Time first began on March 31, 1918. Benjamin Franklin originally thought of the idea when he was in Paris, in 1784. It was not until 1907 that it was first considered seriously, when William Willett, a London builder, began to endorse it. He thought people could use the “clear, bright light of an early morning during Spring and Summer months” if clocks were advanced by 20 minutes on each Sunday in April, and pushed back by 20 minutes each Sunday in September.
When Daylight Saving Time was first implemented it was so unpopular that in 1919 it was repealed. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt established year-round Daylight Saving Time, known as “War Time.” However, with no laws regulating time, from 1945 to 1966 states were free to choose whether to observe the time change.
Moving the clocks forward in the spring is a practice that started after World War I. The theory was that more sunlight during people’s waking hours would help to conserve fuel, since they would need less light and heat. However, farmers’ days have always been controlled by the sun, not the clock, so they have long resisted Daylight Saving Time, saying their productivity is actually reduced due to missing the extra hour of morning sunlight.
The idea of saving energy by switching to Daylight Saving Time has gone on for years, but is currently being disputed. Now the theory is that people are out driving around and doing things because they have extra daylight in the evening, meaning an increase in energy cost. One benefit might be that since there is more light there are fewer accidents. Also, Americans who are out driving around possibly provide an economic stimulus because they are likely spending money while doing it.
On Jan. 4, 1974, the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973 was signed by President Richard Nixon, and clocks were set ahead. Congress amended the act on Oct. 27 and Standard Time returned. The country went back to Daylight Saving Time on February 23, 1975, and the time continues to change twice a year. Today, China, India and Japan are the only major industrialized countries that do not observe at least some form of the controversial time change.