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World Daylight Saving Time
by George Leo Curran and Irene Hume Taylor, 1935


"What time is it, please?" That question, asked by thousands of people daily, caused the telephone company to establish a special department for answering it. The fact that so many people pay five cents to get the information is proof enough of the importance of "time" as a factor in the world today. In days gone by, time was relative; today, with its telephones, telegraphs, railroads, radio and television, it is specific. There is a time for everything, even different kinds, such as local, standard and daylight-saving!

Local Time

The time given by the sun on a sun dial is called Apparent Solar Time (the word 'apparent' refers to the apparent motion of the sun, which does not really move, but only appears to do so). This apparent sun travels along the ecliptic, which contains 360° of longitude; as it takes the sun 365 1/4 days to traverse this space, its motion is not exactly measurable in hours of time. Therefore, a fictitious sun, called the mean sun, has been invented by astronomers, and imagined to travel along the equator, 360°, at the rate of 1° per day. This sun, going at a uniform rate of speed, furnishes uniform time.

The time indicated by the apparent sun on a sun dial is called Apparent Solar Time, or true local time. The time shown by the fictitious sun is called Mean Solar Time, or local mean time when measured in terms of any longitudinal meridian. The time at any instant as kept by a clock, is the hour-angle of the mean sun in relation to a stated meridian of longitude.

The difference between the true solar time, as indicated by the apparent (or real) sun, and mean time, as furnished by the mean or fictitious sun, is called the equation of time. This varies at different seasons of the year as much as sixteen minutes per day, as shown in the table at end of this chapter.

The Birth of Standard Time

Before the use of standard time, there was much confusion about time. Some places used solar time (or true local time) as indicated on a sun dial; other places used mean time, as indicated by their longitude. As places only 1° apart in distance, are 4 minutes apart in mean time, it is easy enough to imagine the confusion that resulted when the railroads started making history the latter half of the 19th century.

The first man in the United States to sense the growing need for time standardization was an amateur astronomer, William Lambert, who as early as 1809 presented to Congress a recommendation for the establishment of time meridians in this country. This was not passed. Nor was the suggestion of Charles Dowd of Saratoga Springs, N. Y., in 1870, to establish standard time meridians taken seriously.

It remained for a Canadian civil and railway engineer, Sanford Fleming by name, to instigate the initial efforts which led to the adoption of the present time meridians in both Canada and the United States. This man, one of the founders of the Canadian Institute (now known as the Royal Canadian Institute), was chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway. His principal concern was to operate his railway on specified schedules, an achievement almost impossible where mean time, varying every few degrees of longitude, was the accepted standard.

On the 25th of January. 1879, thirty members of the Canadian Institute listened to his paper on "Absolute Time." On the 8th of February of the same year, he himself read a paper on "The Selection of a Prime Meridian," which stands as the first record of a public presentation of the standard time system as used today. In this paper, he proposed the establishment of 24 time-belts, each 15° wide; the system to start with a prime meridian; the time to advance one hour in each belt toward the west, and to diminish one hour in each belt toward the east.

The Adoption of the Greenwich Meridian

On the 18th of October. 1883, a convention was called by W. F. Allen, secretary of the General Railway Time Committee. At this meeting, it was decided to adopt the Greenwich meridian as the origin of world time; to establish time zones with intervals of 15° longitude (1 hour in time) and to put the new time into effect in both Canada and the United States at noon, the 18th of November, 1883. The main railways in both countries 'adopted this standard time on the date given, as did various junction points along the routes of the roads: but it was many years in some cases before the new time was generally used by the people themselves.

The International Time Conference was held in Washington, D. C., on the 1st of October, 1884, with delegates from twenty-six different countries present. All agreed on the Greenwich meridian as the basis of standard time calculations, except France, who preferred to use the meridian of Paris. Belgium and Holland were the first European countries to adopt the new time. Great Britain had already legalized the Greenwich meridian as the indicator of their mean time, in 1880. This Washington Conference had no legal power, but recognized the following factors as precedents upon which they hoped to have their respective countries act:

  1. The adoption of the Greenwich meridian as 0°, or starting point of the standard time zones.
  2. The equal division of the entire world into twenty-four 1 5° Time Zones.
  3. Recognition of the use of the 24-hour day dial, eliminating the need for the use of the terms "a.m." and "p.m."; and of midnight as the beginning of the civil day.

Each of the delegates returned to his country and endeavored to get these principles legalized. Their success is recorded under the countries in the time tables that follow in the main section of this book.

Use of Standard Time in United States

Although the large railway systems in United States and Canada adopted standard time at noon on 18 November, 1883, it was sometimes many years before such time was actually used by the people themselves. Standard time was adopted by railways of the United States on the given date, except as follows:

  • 1883- 25 Nov. Sunday noon, adopted by Chicago and North Western, Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and their connecting lines from Chicago through St. Paul and Minneapolis westward.
  • 1883-- 9 Dec., adopted by Michigan Central Railroad (central standard time) on same date as the New Brunswick Railway of Canada adopted eastern standard time.
  • 1884- 1 Nov., adopted by Pacific Coast Railways, extending westward from El Paso. Texas, and Ogden, Utah.

Most of the cities and towns of the districts traversed by the railroads adopted standard time for practical use on the same date as the railroads. In October, 1885, there were 27 cities in the United States out of 28, enumerated in the 1880 census as having over 10,000 population, which still retained the use of local mean time.

By Act of Congress on 13th March, 1884, eastern standard time was legalized for the District of Columbia, but it had been in local use since noon 18th November, 1883. This was not, however, the case throughout the rest of the country. Standard time, although adopted by many cities and states by local ordinances, was not actually legalized in the United States until the Daylight Saving Act of 19th March, 1918. At that time, Congress empowered the Interstate Commerce Commission to establish limits for the various time zones throughout the country, and to take charge of all time changes thereafter. This was effective from 31st March, 1918, at 2 a.m. This act also described the Time Zones, as Eastern Standard time, 75°; Central Standard Time, 90°; Mountain Standard Time, 105°; Pacific Standard Time, 120°; and Alaska Time (now called Central Alaska Time), 150°. It also transferred the southern part of Idaho from Mountain to Pacific Standard Time. This was changed in 1924 to Mountain Time.

In 1928, the Interstate Commerce Commission made a readjustment, bringing the limits of the zones as nearly half-way between the standard meridians as the Junction and Division points of common carriers would permit.

The Interstate Commerce Commission is constantly considering suggested time changes. It may be reached at the Department of Commerce, Washington, D. C.

The International Date Line

Bulletin No. 78, of the Dominion Observatory, Wellington, New Zealand, entitled "Notes on the History of the Date or Calendar Line," states that "the date or calendar line is modification of the line of the 180th meridian, and is drawn so as to include islands of any one group, etc., on the same side of the line. When crossing this line on a westerly (true) course, the date must be advanced one day; and when crossing it on an easterly (true) course the date must be put back one day."

The bell of the little church in Chatham Islands, 180°, rings in the first minute of New Year's Day each year. The date line follows a criss-cross course through the Pacific Ocean, aiming to avoid as much land as possible. It is not fixed in its course, but the one as follows is as generally accepted as any other:

(Table omitted)

Until the middle of the 19th century, many of the islands in the midPacific used two dates, one known as "eastern" and one as "western", depending upon whether the country that settled there sailed from the east or the west. Ships sailing west lost a day, and had to advance the date; ships sailing east, gained a day, and had to put back the date one day. The "eastern" date is one day ahead of the "western" date. Until 1844, the Philippines used the western date, as did the Carolines and Ladrones; while the eastern date was used by Alaska, Samoa and New Zealand. Changes were later made as noted under each individual place, in the tables in This book

The position of the date line was practically the same, as recorded in 1900, in the pilot chart of the United States Hydrographic Department and in the "Pacific Islands Pilot," Vol. 2, issued by the Admiralty Hydrographic Department. In 1910, the position of the line was somewhat changed, the portion between Samoa and Chatham Islands being moved to the east according to the meridian of 172°30' W.

How to Change Standard Time to Mean Time

For practical purposes, it is well to consider a birth hour prior to 1895 in terms of local mean time, unless otherwise specified. Refer carefully to the tables in this book to check on such data. Where the birth time is given as standard time, it must be changed to local mean time before the correct right ascension of the mid-heaven can tie secured. To do this, first find the difference in longitude between the birthplace and the nearest standard meridian. For each such degree, a time correction of four minutes must be made: this correction to be added to the standard time, if the place be east of the standard meridian, or subtracted from it if located west of such meridian. The result is local mean time. To find G.M.T., this increment must also be used in addition to the standard time hours to be subtracted or added to the local birth time.
Table for equation of time (omitted)


When the standard time zones were first established, the twelve-hour working day, beginning about seven in the morning and ending about sunset, was in common usage. Toward the close of the nineteenth century, it was reduced to ten hours, and at the time of the World War was about eight hours. These adjustments were all made at the beginning of the day, instead of at its close, thus shifting the hours of industry from sunrise-tosunset, to 8:30 a.m.-to-5:30 p.m.

That the intensified production of modern conveniences, chief among which is the electric light, has been a contributory factor in this artificial condition is fairly certain. With a work-day running well toward sunset, man has gradually come to associate his recreational hours with the onset of artificial lighting, and the evening hours have provided for his leisure time. The result is that he needs to sleep longer in the morning, and thus the vicious circle starts. During the war, when it became apparent that fuel must be saved by reducing artificial lighting to a minimum, the Daylight Saving Movement was born. The earlier working day was discussed, but it seemed easier to change the hands of the clock than human nature. Thus Daylight Saving Time was instituted by the simple expedient of pushing the hour hand of the clock up an hour for the duration of the summer months, doing automatically what could not be accomplished reasonably. The day's work began an hour earlier, and therefore ended an hour earlier, during daylight.

At the equator, with its almost equal hours of day and night, and evenly distributed hours of daylight through all seasons, there is little need for any time advance. As the latitude of the earth increases northward, the actual hours of daylight are decreased during the fall and winter months (during the summer in southern latitudes). If the working hours were shifted an hour earlier, there would be more daylight at the end of the day, with its consequent beneficial results.

The Origin of Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time is just another one of those artificial ones, like standard and mean, that the mind of man has created to make Time serve his own purposes. There is nothing scientific or uniform about it. It is acquired annually during certain summer months, in varying places, by the simple expedient of moving up the hour hand of the clock anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour. When this artificial adjustment has served its temporary purpose, the hand is pushed back again to its former standard time, and the world goes merrily on its way, rather self-satisfied at having stolen a march on Nature!

The result of this tinkering with time is that the working day is automatically pushed up an hour earlier. This bright idea is said, facetiously enough, to have originated with the thrifty Benjamin Franklin, who abhorred the necessity for burning lamps long after dark. Even he, however, did not presume to interfere with Time itself, but simply suggested that the working day should start earlier to prevent this useless extravagance.

An Englishman, too, as far back as 1907, was much concerned with the growing tendency of people to start work later and later in the morning, finishing close to, or after, sunset. He wrote a pamphlet about it, entitled "The Waste of Daylight," read it to several gatherings of business men, and made enough converts over a period of years to promote a movement for "the earlier and extended use aiid enjoyment of daylight." His name was William Willett, and he succeeded in bringing several bills to this effect before the House of Commons, all of which, however, were referred to a committee after the first reading. He died on the 4th of March, 1915, without living to see the amazing outcome of his cherished plan. Before he died, he drew up an act, advocating the advancement of the hands of the clock during the summer months, upon which was built the Summer Time Act which was finally passed on the 17th of May, 1916 in Great Britain.

While all of this was going on in England, over in Germany it became apparent that fuel must be saved. One of the simplest and quickest ways to do it was to reduce artificial lighting to a minimum. Germany and Austria took time by the forelock, and arbitrarily put "summer time" into effect at 11 p.m. on the 30th of April, 1916, by advancing the hands of the clock one hour until the following October. This action was immediately followed by other countries in Europe, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Italy, France and Portugal.

Great Britain's first summer time act was effective at 2 a.m. G.M.T. on 21st of May, 1916, and continued until 2 am. G.M.T. of 1st of October, 1916. There was a marked objection in this country to the use of any other kind of time than Greenwich Mean Time, because of the previous efforts that had been expended in getting other countries to adopt this meridian as the origin of standard time. The war, however, and the need for economy, were the motivating factors that put summer time over.

The Summer Time Act introduced into the House of Commons on the 8th of May, 1916 was Mr. Willett's but slightly modified original draft. Sir Henry Norman moved to advance the hands of the clock one hour, the motion being carried by 170 to 2. The Act was then introduced by the Home Secretary, Mr. Herbert Samuel, on the 9th of May, read a second time on 10th of May and became a law on the 17th of May, effective the 21st. This Act provided "that in view especially of the economy in fuel and its transport that would be effected by shortening the hours of artificial lighting, this House would welcome a measure for the advancement of the clock by one hour during the summer months of the year," and affected all public institutions, postoffices, railroads, banks, police stations, and all places where business might be conducted.

In 1917, Australia, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia initiated it, while it was continued in Europe almost everywhere except the Scandinavian countries, where there is perpetual daylight during the summer and no need for "saving" it. When the United States entered the war, this same year, a bill was drafted by the National Daylight Saving Association, designed to save fuel and light by advancing the clocks an hour during the summer. It was introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Calder of New York, on the 17th of April, passed on June 27th without a roll call, signed by the President the 19th of March, 1918 the following year. It became effective, primarily as a war measure, at 2 a.m. standard time, the 31st of March, 1918 and continued until 2 am. Daylight Saving Time of the 27th of October the same year. It was used by the entire United States and Alaska for the two summers, 1918 and 1919, when so much opposition arose from the rural population that the act was repealed over President Wilson's veto on the 29th of August, 1919. All of Canada used it in 1918, discontinuing it after but one season. Germany, the initiator of the time in Europe, discontinued it at the close of the war in 1919, and never thereafter used it. It has, however, been continued by many countries since that time, also by many hundreds of individual cities by means of local ordinances, and is still in effect today. It is problematical how long it will be popular.

Arguments in Favor of Daylight Saving Time

During the war, the principal argument advanced for the continuance of Daylight Saving Time was that it gave working people an extended opportunity to get out after the day's work to make one of the conservation gardens then in vogue as part of the various save-the-food campaigns. Those who did not make gardens, played golf or engaged in other outdoor sports, and were pleased with the extra hour of daylight before bedtime. These are the people who favor the use of this summer time. They live in fairly good-sized cities, have plenty of electric light, and enjoy their extra leisure time.

Objections to Daylight Saving Time

The most vociferous objectors to the use of the advanced clock time are the farmers and rural residents, who have always conducted their work by the sun, regardless of the civil time in use. The farmers maintain there is no way to convince a cow that she must wait -an hour by the clock before she can be milked and fed. When the sun goes down, the animals want to eat. Farm chores are done by the sun, whereas marketing and shipping are conducted by civil time. If this time is advanced, it lengthens the farmer's already long day and makes him disgruntled.

The complaints of the urban population are varied. Mothers are annoyed because they cannot get their children to sleep until an hour past their usual bedtime. The moving picture theater managers complain that the extra hour of daylight decreases their usual summer attendance. The power and utility companies have watched the decreased use of electricity during the summer months with considerable trepidation. The milkmen do not like the fast time, as it makes them work in the dark even in summer when they usually count on a period of daylight working hours.

There cities difficulties resulting from the use of standard time in the smaller cities and towns adjoining the city with Daylight Saving Time. The different times are confusing. Railroad and shipping times, as well as the mails, are an hour later than usual. Commuters gain an hour in the morning, only to lose it at night upon their return home.

Observatories have objected to the use of this time, on the ground that meteorological instruments are designed to record continuously day and night, thus the use of Daylight Saving Time disturbs their system of daily international telegraphic reports of synchronous observations, on which weather reports are based.

Then there is that large class of tireless scientific investigators, the astrologers, to whom Daylight Saving Time has been nothing short of a nightmare. As if the question of time were not already confusing enough, with the myriad of corrections to be applied to any "given time," another time adjustment rears its head! And such an adjustment. So erratic has been the observation of this time fad, that it will probably be years before a complete record is gathered, thus making accurate time computations possible. Who would know, for instance, that Philadelphia, large as it is, failed to observe Daylight Saving Time one year out of the twenty just passed? What year was it? Who would suspect a place like Sierra Leone or Sarawak of advancing their clocks in the rummer? Who would imagine that Montgomery, Ala., would suddenly decide to adopt it this year? And even a casual glance at the tables in this book reveals the most amazing irregularity in the observation of Daylight Saving Time, in the same city, from year to year. Interesting food for thought for this group-Neptune, the planet symbolic of confusion and chaos, finally, after retrograding between the last degree of Cancer and the first degree of Leo, entered Leo, ruled by the sun, permanently on the first day of May, 1916, just a few hours after Germany put Daylight Saving Time into effect at 11 p.m. on the 30th of April, the night before!

The Future of Daylight Saving Time

This temporary time continues to be observed in many countries in many Canadian cities, and numerous other places in the world. There is very little system to this observation. Some places have rules, others just "pass an ordinance" each year to take care of it. Others use it intermittently. Something ought to be done about it. This same thing could easily be accomplished by advancing the actual working hours during the summer, as is now done in those states where Daylight Saving Time is illegal. The office workers go to work from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., thus achieving their purpose without upsetting the whole economic fabric.

Perhaps, instead of being the disease itself, it is but a symptom of some more deep-seated dissatisfaction. It may be that the apparent demand for this fast time is an indication of a newly developed need for revision of the present standard time zones. There has been. a growing tendency in the United States to extend the eastern boundaries of the time zones to the west. This is especially true of the eastern standard time zone. When it is stripped of all its trimmings, Daylight Saving Time is nothing more than the temporary adoption of the time zone to the east. There must be deep forces at work to keep such a movement going at high momentum so long after the apparent need for it has ceased.

These forces are doubtless economic ones, especially in the United States. New York City is the financial center of the country, while Chicago is no mean second as the shipping center, certainly first as a railroad and live stock center. These two great cities are not keyed to each other from the standpoint of time, New York operating on eastern standard time, and Chicago on central standard time. New York's banks, exchanges and big businesses are open an hour in the morning before Chicago's activities start, therefore Chicago must complete all of its transactions an hour earlier in order to clear the banks and exchanges before they are closed in New York. If New York operated on Daylight Saving Time, and Chicago did not, there would be two hours difference in time.

As the years have gone on, since standard time zones were first put into effect in this country, the eastern time zone has been gradually extended farther and farther west, until now it includes the whole of Ohio. Michigan is legally on eastern time, and operates on it, but this time is still not recognized as valid by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Canada's western border of the eastern time zone is the 89th meridian which includes within its confines all of the eastern markets. Its central standard time zone encircles its production centers. 'If this same method were followed in the United States, the border of the eastern zone would be extended to include Chicago, which is the western terminus of the eastern railway lines and the main transfer point for the entire country. It is likewise the western frontier of the manufacturing and financial east, and the great exchange market of the agricultural west. Perhaps if the eastern time zone ended here, the need for daylight saving time would disappear throughout the entire central part of the United States. The present dividing line is erratic enough, so that one change more or less would not make it look any worse on paper, and it would doubtless work out much better in actual practice.

Whether the western limits of the Eastern Standard Time zone should run through Chicago, down the western border of Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi, thus including the city of Chicago in the eastern zone, but making the change in time there also; or whether the modern age of quick transportation and communication demands the re-zoning of .the entire United States,--these are the questions of the hour. Something will have to be done, and soon, to straighten out the muddle into which Daylight Saving Time plunges the country every summer.

In addition, Great Britain will probably have to take the initiative in this matter, as it has done in the past in questions of time and time changes. If London were operating on standard time, there is hardly a city in the world that would continue with Dayligh Saving Time. Perhaps the old farmer was right when he said, "Why interfere with God and Greenwich?"

Source: World Daylight Saving Time, by Curran and Taylor. Curran Publishing. Illinois. 1935. Pages 18-23.

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