It's time to spring forward.....but why? - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

It's time to spring forward.....but why?

It's time to "spring forward" Saturday night as we return to DST It's time to "spring forward" Saturday night as we return to DST

The annual tradition of setting the clocks ahead one hour as spring approaches is upon us again.  The decades-long tradition of "springing forward" is also known as the return to Daylight Saving Time.  But, why bother?  

The concept was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin during his time as the American envoy to France.  Franklin was a firm believer of "early to bed early to rise makes a man strong healthy and wise."  He also thought the French slept too late in the day.  So, in 1784 he published an anonymous satirical letter to Parisians suggesting clocks be set an hour earlier in order to maximize more daytime sunlight.  The letter also suggested taxing shutters, rationing candles, and using church bells and cannons at sunrise to wake the citizens of Paris.

The French did not adopt his tongue in cheek suggestion.  But, in 1895, a New Zealand entomologist named George Vernon Hudson who wanted more daylight hours after his regular job to collect insects presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing an two hour daylight-saving shift.  The concept was considered but not enacted.  

Then, in 1905, an Englishman named William Willett conceived the idea of Daylight Saving Time while on a bike ride though London.  He was rattled by the fact the most Londoners slept through a good part of the day during summer months.  Willett was also an avid golfer and did not like the idea of cutting his round short due to the lack of sunlight.  His solution was to advance the clocks one hour during the summer months.  The idea was brought to Parliament in 1908.  The bill did not pass but Willett continued to lobby for the change up until his death in 1915.  

Then on April 30, 1916, Germany along with allies Austria and Hungary enacted DST in an effort to conserve on coal usage during wartime.  The policy was then adopted by Britain and its allies along with several other European counties.  The U.S. adopted the policy in 1918 calling it "fast time" but it was repealed after just seven months, although, a handful of cities continued to observe it.   After the war, most countries abandoned the policy as the need to conserve coal was no longer an issue.  It was brought back by some countries over the following years and again for most countries during World War II.  In 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted year round DST in the U.S., calling it "War Time" and even breaking it into time zones.  There was Eastern War Time, Central War Time, and Pacific War Time.  This continued until the end of the second World War when it was then referred to as Peace Time.  During the same period Great Britain established "Double Summer Time" during summer months by setting clocks ahead by two hours during the summer months. 

The practice of setting clocks ahead during the 40s made for some big problems for many industries and businesses because states were given the freedom to establish when and if they would observe the time change.  This created major headaches in the travel and shipping industries as times varied in locations across the country.  Then during the height of the energy crisis in the mid 70s the U.S. congress established set months of observation of DST for the entire nation as an effort to conserve energy.  The act saved an estimated 10,000 barrels of oil each day.  But many in the U.S. considered the policy to be problematic complaining that students were forced to leave for school in the dark morning hours thus putting them in danger.  After the energy crisis ended in 1976 congress amended the act to begin DST on the last Sunday in April. The bill was again amended in 1987 to begin DST on the first Sunday in April.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 allowed DST to be amended yet again to start on the first weekend in March. 

That weekend is upon us, and it's time to spring forward again whether we like it or not.  We'll lose an hour of sleep, but we'll get to enjoy a little more sunshine during the later part of the day.  So, before you go to bed Saturday night, be sure to spring forward one hour as we return to Daylight Saving Time.   

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