The history of daylight-saving time, which the US Senate just voted to make permanent

·7 min read
Arizona desert sunset
Sunset over the Arizona desertShutterstock
  • The US Senate passed a bill to make daylight-saving permanent.

  • Common wisdom about daylight-saving time is that it originated with farming, but it really goes back to World War I.

  • Most of the US, with the exception of Hawaii, Arizona, and some territories, recognizes daylight-saving time.

The US Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to make daylight-saving time permanent.

The Sunshine Protection Act of 2021, if passed by the House and signed into law by President Joe Biden, would end the ritual observed in most of the United States of changing clocks twice a year, in March and November.

Indeed, most US states on Sunday began over eight months of daylight-saving time by "springing forward" and moving their clocks an hour ahead, losing an hour of sleep in exchange for a later sunrise and more sunlight at the end of the day.

Thinkers including Benjamin Franklin, the New Zealand scientist George Hudson, and the Englishman William Willett advocated for plans that would give them more sunlight in the day going all the way back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

The US and several European countries enacted daylight-saving time during World War I and World War II as an energy-conservation measure and kept it during peacetime.

Today, most of the US, with the exception of Hawaii, Arizona, and many US territories, recognizes daylight-saving time. While many northern states appreciate the extra hour of sun, some states that experience unbearable heat in the summer prefer an hour of nighttime instead and stay on standard time all year round.

Here's the full history of daylight-saving time in the US.

The idea for daylight-saving time is attributed to thinkers including Benjamin Franklin, scientist George Hudson, and a British man named William Willett, who published a pamphlet in 1907 titled "The Waste of Daylight," which argued for an extra 80 minutes of sunlight in the summer.

William Willett
William Willett.Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Source: The History Channel

While Britain didn't act on Willett's proposal at the time, Germany implemented daylight-saving time during World War I as a way to conserve electricity by maximizing sunlight.

world war one 1 wwi
"At close grips with the Hun, we bomb the corkshaffer's, etc." Two United States soldiers run past the remains of two German soldiers toward a bunker. Note that this may well be a staged propaganda image.H. D. Girdwood via Library of Congress

Source: The History Channel

"They remembered Willett's idea of moving the clock forward and thus having more daylight during working hours," the author and historian David Prerau told National Geographic. "While the British were talking about it year after year, the Germans decided to do it more or less by fiat."

Daffodils Germany
Daffodils in Dusseldorf, Germany.AP Photo/Frank Augstein

Source: National Geographic

The US also implemented national daylight-saving time during World War I under President Woodrow Wilson in 1918 —but Congress later repealed the measure in 1919.

Woodrow wilson
President Woodrow Wilson.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Source: The History Channel

Multiple studies, however, have since concluded that daylight-saving time has no or negligible benefits when it comes to energy conservation.

FILE - In this May 25, 2017, file photo, the Milton R. Young Station lignite coal-fired power plant near Center, N.D., glows as dusk blankets the North Dakota prairie landscape. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, it will retain the standard for sulfur dioxide pollution established in 2010 under President Barack Obama. Sulfur dioxide comes from burning coal to produce electricity and from other industrial sources. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)
FILE - In this May 25, 2017, file photo, the Milton R. Young Station lignite coal-fired power plant near Center, N.D., glows as dusk blankets the North Dakota prairie landscape.Associated Press

Source: History Channel

It's a common misconception that farmers pushed for daylight-saving time in the US to get more time to work outside in the fields.

FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2002 file photo, farmer John Hawk looks over his land as his seed onion fields are watered in Holtville, Calif. Work on a multistate plan to address drought on the Colorado River in the U.S. West won't be done to meet a Monday, March 4, 2019 federal deadline. A California irrigation district with the highest-priority rights to the river water says it won't approve the plan without securing money to restore the state's largest lake. The Imperial Irrigation District wants $200 million for the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake in the desert southeast of Los Angeles.(AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2002 file photo, farmer John Hawk looks over his land as his seed onion fields are watered in Holtville, Calif.Associated Press

Source: The History Channel

Because farmers' schedules revolved around sunlight and not the clock, a change in the amount of sunlight threw their entire workday out of whack. Agricultural groups were behind the effort to repeal daylight-saving time in 1919.

Farmer Mark Catterton drives a John Deere Harvester while harvesting soybeans during his fall harvest on October 19, 2018 in Owings, Maryland.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Source: The History Channel

After the national repeal of daylight-saving time in 1919, many individual states and cities continued to adjust their clocks twice a year, but at varying days and times, in what Time magazine characterized in 1963 as "a chaos of clocks."

Electric Time Company employees Dan LaMoore, right, and James Simonini test the lights in three large clocks being constructed at the company's production facility in Medfield, Mass.,AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

Source: The History Channel

The History Channel reported that at the time, "passengers on a 35-mile bus ride from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, passed through seven time changes."

West Virginia
West Virginia.shutterstock/Andriy Blokhin

Source: The History Channel

In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which set daylight-saving time to begin and end at the same time nationwide. Since 2005, daylight-saving time has begun on the second Sunday in March and ended on the first Sunday in November.

Daylight Saving reminder
A reminder to change clocks back from day-light savings time in the fall from Brooklyn, New York, in 1964.Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

Source: The History Channel

Hawaii, most of Arizona, and a number of US territories do not, however, recognize daylight-saving time — largely because nighttime brings cooler, more pleasant temperatures than the heat during the day.

hawaii four seasons
Hawaii.Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Source: National Geographic

"In the summer, everybody loves to have an extra hour of daylight in the evening so they can stay out another hour," Prerau told National Geographic. "In Arizona, it's just the opposite. They don’t want more sunlight, they want less.”

Arizona desert sunset
Sunset over the Arizona desert.Shutterstock

Source: National Geographic

While states can voluntarily opt-out of recognizing daylight saving time or choose to be on daylight-saving time all-year-round, they must pass an act of legislation and obtain approval from the US Congress.

Sanibel Florida
Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Source: NBC Montana

Lawmakers in over a dozen states have passed legislation or resolutions in recent years to make daylight-saving time permanent in their states. But those bills haven't been able to go into effect absent congressional action.

Texas longhorn

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Some studies have linked the decrease in sleep associated with daylight-saving time to negative health effects, such as increases in heart attacks, car accidents, and workplace injuries.

coronavirus hospital complication heart
Houston Fire Department medics transport a man to a hospital after he suffered cardiac arrest on August 11, 2020 in Houston, Texas.John Moore/Getty Images

Source: Detroit Free Press, Insider

In March of 2019, the European Parliament voted to permanently end daylight saving time in the European Union effective in 2021, letting individual countries decide whether to operate on permanent "summer time" or "winter time."

european union parliament flags brussels
A Union Jack flag is lowered at half-mast in honor of the victims of the Manchester attack, outside the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium May 23, 2017.Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Source: Insider

The bipartisan bill the Senate passed on Tuesday would make daylight-saving time permanent all-year-round in states that currently recognize it.

Capitol Washington
People walk along the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, near the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument.Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images

The Sunshine Protection Act of 2021, introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 13 senators.

"In a year that feels like it's been in complete darkness, Senator Rubio and I have provided a solution to provide more sunlight by making Daylight Saving Time permanent," GOP Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, one of the bill's co-sponsors, said in 2021. "I don't know a parent of a young child that would oppose getting rid of springing forward or falling back. Congress created Daylight Saving decades ago as a wartime effort, now it is well past time to lock the clock and end this experiment."

Read the original article on Business Insider