Daylight Saving Time starts on the 2nd Sunday in March—that’s this Sunday, March 8, 2020! If it seems to you like this day used to come later in the year, you’re right. Prior to 2007, when the Energy Act of 2005 took effect, we used to “spring forward” during the first week of April and “fall back” during the final weekend of October.
Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of moving the clocks forward one hour from Standard Time during the summer months, and changing them back again in the fall. The general idea is that this allows us all to make better use of natural daylight. However, DST has many detractors.
According to the Old Farmers’ Almanac, Benjamin Franklin made the earliest recorded proposal to “save” daylight. “An Economical Project,” written by Franklin in 1784, advocated laws to compel citizens to rise at the crack of dawn to save the expense of candlelight: “Every morning, as soon as the Sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing: and if that is not sufficient, let cannon be fired in every street to wake the sluggards effectually…Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is probable that he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening.”
England introduced a version of DST back in 1916 called British Summer Time. From May 21 to October 1, clocks in Britain were put an hour ahead. The United States followed the following year, when Congress officially declared that all clocks would be moved ahead one hour at 2:00 A.M. on March 31, 1918. Americans were encouraged to turn off their lights and go to bed earlier than they normally did—at around 8:00 P.M. Many Americans viewed the practice as an absurd attempt to make late sleepers get up early.
The first Daylight Saving Time experiment lasted only until 1920, when the law was repealed due to opposition from dairy farmers (cows don’t pay attention to clocks). No fewer than 28 bills to repeal Daylight Saving Time were introduced to Congress, and the law was removed from the books.
The subject did not come up again until after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, and the United States was once again at war. During World War II, Daylight Saving Time was imposed once again (this time year-round) to save fuel. Clocks were set one hour ahead to save energy. After the war, Daylight Saving Time started being used on and off in different states, beginning and ending on days of their choosing.
Inconsistent adherence to time zones among the states created considerable confusion with interstate bus and train service. To remedy the situation, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, establishing consistent use of Daylight Saving Time within the United States. Clocks were to be set ahead one hour on the last Sunday in April and one hour back on the last Sunday in October. That was the rule, but some state legislatures took exception via a loophole that had been built into the law. Residents of Hawaii and most of Arizona did not change their clocks.
In 1986, Congress approved a bill to increase the period of Daylight Saving Time, moving the start to the first Sunday in April. The goal was to conserve oil used for generating electricity—an estimated 300,000 barrels annually. Still, some resistance remained.
The current daylight saving period was established with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which went into effect in 2007. As a result, most Americans now spring forward (turn clocks ahead and lose an hour) on the second Sunday in March (at 2:00 A.M.) and fall back (turn clocks back and gain an hour) on the first Sunday in November (at 2:00 A.M.).
Whether you love it or hate it, Daylight Saving Time is still going to begin again this Sunday morning. Don’t forget to move your clocks up before going to bed Saturday night, or you run the risk of arriving at your Sunday morning church service after the last “amen” has already been said!