Bugs, golf and war: The chaotic history of daylight saving time


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every year, like clockwork, it comes. For some, it’s a dreaded day that has been linked to drowsiness, car accidents and even depression — daylight saving time.

While many people throughout history have suggested adjusting clocks to better suit the season, including Benjamin Franklin, the modern practice of daylight saving time can be traced to two men.

The first was George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand who proposed the idea because he wanted more time to look for bugs.

The second was the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin named William Willet. Willet pitched the idea to the British Parliament because he wanted more time to golf.

Franklin, who has been rumored to have invented the concept, only suggested Parisians alter their sleep schedules to save money on candles and lamp oil, according to The Franklin Institute.

In 1908, the city of Port Arthur, Ontario, became the first city to practice daylight saving time. Eight years later, the German Empire, in an effort to conserve coal during World War I, took up Willet’s idea and became the first country to use it. Soon after, nearly every other country embroiled in the war started springing their clocks forward.

Farmers against DST

Getting everyone to take up daylight saving time wasn’t easy. In 1918, farmers actually lobbied against a law that would make it standard in the U.S. They won, and the law was repealed in 1919.

However, states with urban centers still practiced daylight saving time. This makes sense. Farmers usually base their day around the sun, and shifting clocks would make it more difficult for them to sell goods in town. In urban centers, consumers are more willing to shop when there’s more daylight after they get off work.

Over the next 50 years, various states had various rules when it came to daylight saving time. In 1963, Time Magazine called the whole situation a “chaos of clocks.”

Three years later, the Uniform Time Act was passed and daylight saving time was officially recognized in the U.S.

Getting rid of DST?

It’s not unusual for people to get tired of changing their clocks twice a year. In 2017 and 2019, Texas lawmakers pushed to abolish the biannual time change. Both attempts failed.

Hawaii abandoned the law in 1967, just one year after the national law was passed. Because the state’s proximity to the equator meant the sun rose and set at about the same time every day, daylight saving time didn’t make a whole lot of sense there.

Arizona did away with it in 1968. However, the Navajo Nation in the northeast part of the state still observes the change because the tribe extends into several other states.

Around the world, daylight saving time isn’t very common. Countries near the equator are in the same situation as Hawaii, and in much of Asia and South America, daylight saving time was used for a bit, then abandoned.

Today, about 70 countries take part in the time change.

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