Daylight saving time (DST) is an annual ritual that many of us dread twice a year. Clocks spring forward an hour in the spring and fall back an hour in the fall, disrupting our sleep schedules and circadian rhythms. Despite its detractors, DST has been a part of popular culture since the mid-20th century and has a fascinating history.
The concept of DST was first floated in an essay written by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, but the first true proponent was an English builder named William Willet. In 1907, Willet published a pamphlet called “The Waste of Daylight” in which he advocated for advancing clocks in the spring and turning them back in the fall to make the most of daylight hours.
The Uniform Time Act of 1966 established DST standards for the observance of DST in the United States. Prior to then, DST was not regulated by the federal government, leaving municipalities, cities and states to decide whether or not to observe the practice and when it started and ended. This created a patchwork of varying time standards that made it difficult for transportation industries, including railroads, trucking and airlines, to schedule their services.
While many are in favor of making DST permanent, the move requires a change in federal law. In the past five years, 19 states have enacted legislation or passed resolutions to provide for year-round DST, if Congress were to allow such a change. If the country were to switch to year-round DST, states would move to Atlantic Time, the time zone for Puerto Rico, much of the Caribbean and Canada’s Maritime provinces.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill last March that would have made DST permanent across the U.S., but the House of Representatives didn’t take the Sunshine Protection Act up in subsequent months. Despite this, the annual ritual of changing clocks twice a year is still very much alive and kicking, with DST beginning in Oklahoma on Sunday, March 12th.