The History and Fun Facts About Daylight-Saving Time

Chattanooga will soon be springing forward with the arrival of Daylight-Saving Time (DST), and although not much thought is given to this biannual ritual – mainly readjusting to new daylight hours – the concept of manipulating time as well as the public opinion of DST has quite a complex and controversial history.

Sunrise by the Walnut Street Bridge

Origins of Daylight-Saving Time

Like many new ideas, it started with a joke, and none other than Benjamin Franklin delivered it in the 1784 Journal de Paris, writing that the city of Paris sleeps till noon and certain regulations – including firing cannons at sunrise and patrol guards after sunset – would help with daily productivity. Though the remark was received with humor, there was no further discussion on the topic until George Hudson – a New Zealand entomologist – proposed the idea of Daylight-Saving Time in 1895.

So, how did a dedicated bug collector and postal worker come up with the idea of DST?  Well, as someone who was published in The Entomologist at age 14 thanks to his extensive collection of British insects, Hudson really valued daylight hours; and, innovator that he was, he proposed clock hands move forward two hours to ensure enough daylight for leisure activities – in Hudson’s case, tracking and cataloging insects. New Zealand rejected Hudson’s proposal – understandably finding it confusing and unnecessary – and DST was left untouched until independent British builder William Willett lobbied for the First Daylight Saving Bill in 1909 to parliament. Although the bill was denied, the rumors of DST having the potential to reduce wasteful energy usage traveled to other nations, and by 1916, Germany was credited as the first government to pass the Daylight-Saving Time mandate.

sunset under the walnut street bridge

Chattanooga’s Relationship to Daylight-Saving Time: Then and Now

By the time Daylight-Saving Time came to Chattanooga, Hudson’s concept of springing forward had grown out of it original purpose of extending leisure time and was morphing into a calculated effort for the United States and other warring countries to make better use of daylight while fighting in the war. With the alteration of the hours in a soldier’s day, there was more sunlight to fight under, and eventually DST was given the new name of “War Time.” On March 28, 1918, The Chattanooga Newspaper documented the arrival of DST in Tennessee with the slogan, “One less daylight hour wasted in the morning – one more hour of sunlight added to your recreation when your day’s work is done.” Soon after, though, the notion of free time became nonexistent as Chattanooga grew cognizant of the dark side that a time change brought to the present. In 1919, emphazing the shift in attitude toward DST, The Chattanooga Newspaper printed the headline, “Daylight saving means a fourteen-hour working day for The Wizards of Uncle Sam.”

Currently, Daylight-Saving Time is in effect in over 70 countries worldwide, influencing over one billion people each year; however, the use of it has become more controversial because it no longer serves as an energy saver – at least not as much as it did a century ago. While locals may enjoy more daylight after school and work hours, the delayed sunset is made up for with the dark mornings. With this biannual ritual arriving by the second, it’s time for Chattanooga locals to reset their clocks and brace for the time jump.

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Fun Facts You May Not Know About Daylight-Saving Time

Ancient Ideas

Ancient civilizations are recognized for having engaged in comparable practices to DST, such as the Roman water clocks that used different scales for several months of the year or periodic adjustments to “solar time.”

Canada Was the First to Spring Forward

While Germany is credited as one of the first countries to pass the Daylight-Saving Time mandate, it is a little-known fact that residents of Port Arthur, Ontario – today’s Thunder Bay – turned their clocks forward in 1908 – eight years before Germany. However, the idea did not globally catch on until Germany pushed time ahead in 1916, and not long after, the United Kingdom, France, and many other countries followed suit.

Dog Sleeping

Pets Notice the Time Change

Pets thrive on predictability, and nothing takes priority over their meal and playtime, so when a set feeding time suddenly changes, pets tend to notice. Animals are tuned in with their owner’s schedule and might exhibit odd behaviors in the first week of DST when adjusting to the change. Some experts even suggest adjusting mealtimes in 10-to-15-minute increments leading up to the time change to avoid “bad” behaviors, including scratching, pacing, and high anxiety.


Geography Is Key

Many countries in the Southern Hemisphere – especially those along and below the equator – avoid using DST because the hours of sunlight they get every day barely change. The farther countries are from the equator, the less sunlight in the day, and other places like Hawaii, Arizona (except the Navajo Nation), and overseas U.S. territories don’t participate in the time change.

Daylight-Saving Time Begins at 2 A.M.

Although it sounds sensible to spring forward after midnight, this calculated time was established due to the railroads. When countries were first introduced to DST during WWI, there were no trains left at the stations at 2 a.m. on a Sunday, and therefore it was concluded that this time would be the least disruptive for train travel around the country.


William Willett and Coldplay’s Lead Singer, Chris Martin, are Related

Labeled as the “builder who changed how the world keeps time,” by the BBC, one of William Willetts’ great-great-grandsons is Chris Martin, the frontman of Coldplay! While Martin may not have come up with the idea, Coldplay’s music has certainly been called “ahead of its time.”

Daylight Saving Time Headache

Daylight-Saving Time Can Cause Health Problems

Within two weeks of the time change, people are more prone to car crashes thanks to elevated risk of sleep deprivation and higher occurrences of headaches. The loss of an hour’s sleep also increases risk of heart attacks, and a high volume of individuals suffering from depression seek help in the first two weeks of DST. 


Daylight-Saving Time May Have Killed Drive-In Movie Theaters

With more than 4000 drive-in movie theaters dotting the maps in the mid-1960s, theater owners banded together to oppose the widespread adoption of Daylight-Saving Time in 1966, arguing that the delayed darkness would cause movies to start too late and therefore would hurt businesses. Today, there are approximately 330 drive-in theaters left in Tennessee, and DST just might be the cause of it.

Farmer at Sunrise

Most Farmers Oppose Daylight-Saving Time

The sun, not the clock, dictates a farmer’s and their cattle’s schedule. Rather than rural interest, it was urban entities that championed DST, driven by the desire of earning billons more in revenue; whereas farmers would then have to wait an extra hour for dew to evaporate in order to harvest their hay. And let’s not forget about the cows who reluctantly get milked an hour earlier to meet shipping schedules. Deeply opposed to the time switch, farmers petitioned against Willett’s DST Bill until March 31, 1918, when it was implemented as a wartime measure.


The Candy Industry Lobbied for the Extension of Daylight-Saving Time

Originally, the implementation of DST in the fall meant losing an hour of daylight on the last Sunday in October–  the night before Halloween, which presented a dilemma for candy industries. Candy lobbyists had gone to the extent of placing tiny pumpkins on the seats of everyone in the Senate in 1985 advocating for a DST extension. In 2005, the National Association of Convenience Stores petitioned to extend DST to eight months, arguing that the extra time would result in more daylight for trick-or-treaters, and thus more candy sales. It wasn’t until November of 2007 that the law extending Daylight Saving Time was officially approved.

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