The idea of resetting clocks forward an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin in his essay "An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light," which was published in the Journal de Paris in April 1784.
Franklin's suggestion was largely overlooked until it was brought up again in 1907 by Englishman William Willett, who penned a pamphlet called "The Waste of Daylight." Although the British House of Commons rejected Willett's proposal to advance the clock one hour in the spring and back again in autumn in 1908, British Summer Time was introduced by the Parliament in 1916.
Many other countries change their clocks when adjusting to summer time, but the United States only began doing so towards the end of World War I in an attempt to conserve energy. The House of Representatives voted 252 to 40 to pass a law "to save daylight," with the official first daylight saving time taking place on March 15, 1918. This was initially met with much resistance, according Michael Downing, author of the book "Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time."
"When the Congress poked its finger into the face of every clock in the country, millions of Americans winced," Downing wrote. "United by a determination to beat back the big hand of government," daylight saving time opponents "raised holy hell, vowing to return the nation to real time, normal time, farm time, sun time—the time they liked to think of as "God's time.'"
Despite the public outcry, government officials enforced the time change until 1919, and allowed state and local governments to decide whether to continue the practice. It was reinstituted during World War II but, again, after the war the decision fell to the states.
In fact, even when Congress officially made the time change a law under the Uniform Time Act of 1966, it only stated that if the public decided to observe daylight saving time, it must do so uniformly. Hawaii and Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Reservation), still choose not to partake in the convention, as do some U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Originally, clocks were sprung forward on the last Sunday in April and turned back on the last Sunday in October, but the Energy Policy Act of 2005 shifted the start of daylight saving time to the second Sunday in March and the end to the first Sunday in November.
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This article was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.
- Remy Melina,
Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.