Few people can remember a time before “spring forward, fall back” was known to all — the little ditty that helped us remember how to change our clocks twice a year to maximize the sunlight during the daytime hours. And although Benjamin Franklin first proposed the concept in 1784, it wasn’t until 1918 that the United States formally adopted the practice.

Here’s a story that appeared just before the first time Americans were going to have to set their clocks forward. It’s clearly a sales pitch, hoping to convince the masses that the somewhat confusing practice written into law would indeed be beneficial to them — and to the country as a whole.

Daylight saving plan gives you an extra hour to enjoy the sunshine

When you set your clock ahead an hour on April 1, your work hours will remain the same, but your play hours will increase, and the day will mean more to you

by James C Young

Uncle Sam will push his official clock forward by sixty minutes on April 1. Thereafter it is going to he unpatriotic for anybody to lie abed in the morning and mutter things about the alarm clock.

This daylight saving plan has a good deal more behind it than appears at first glance. Of course, we all know about the millions of hours that are to be conserved and made useful by such a little action as moving the clock ahead. But perhaps very few of us have any idea of what may be accomplished in these added hours. It is as though we had found the philosopher’s stone and learned a method to lengthen our span of life.

How daylight savings first started to take hold

As long ago as 1908, a daylight saving bill was introduced in the House of Commons. Immediately, the scheme met derision, and numerous scientists were among those who called it an idle fad. Other gentlemen of equal weight stoutly defended the plan.

Various nations took heed, and in the course of time, began to experiment with their clocks. At this present time, most of the countries in Western Europe, and England as well, are running their affairs with the clock just an hour fast.

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The system appears to work best during the summer months. So we may expect to get a larger measure of tennis this year, and to spend more of our time fishing, golfing or just walking around in the big outdoors than ever before.

The savings

In the United Kingdom during the four and a half months of 1916, no less than 260,000 tons of coal were conserved through the reduced use of gas, according to Popular Science Monthly. That meant just $2,375,000 added to the pocketbooks of consumers. The consumption of electric current for lighting purposes was 20 percent in the same period. Use of illuminating oils fell off my two and a quarter percent.

For May and June 1918, the municipal gas works of Berlin reported a decreased output of 508,500 cubic meters operating under the daylight saving plan. This reduction was accomplished in spite of 18,000 additional gas meters installed in the first six months of that year, and in the face of an increased gas consumption between January and April, amounting to no less than 2,400,000 cubic meters.

This idea of moving the clock ahead was computed to have saved 19 percent of the coal used in France last year to generate lighting power. Approaching nearer home, we find that the city of Cleveland reduced its fuel bills by $200,000 in the first fix months after switching from Central to Eastern time, which is an hour faster. Following a careful investigation, figures were presented the Rhode Island Committee on Public Safety, indicating that an annual saving would be effected in Providence, amounting to $60,000, and that in the country at large, the total would reach $40,000,000. It is estimated by the Boston Chamber of Commerce that the United States will save not less than $100,000,000 annually on artificial light under the plan.

These figures are all more or less official, and apply to city or state governments for the most part. The saving to individuals is past computation. And industrious man may no work an hour later every day if he feel so disposed, without taxing himself half so much as he would have done in times past. That simple fact of getting up an hour earlier every day is gong to put more vim in all of us. It will mean a refreshing walk in the morning air for a myriad of workers. And instead of going home with the shades of evening beginning to fall, it now will be possible to get home in daylight and seek whatever relaxation pleases most.

Over in England, they have found that the earlier rising and earlier homecoming has interested many persons in gardens who never would have taken up such a thing unless they had found more leisure time. So it is hoped that we also will have an awakened interest in our food supply.

No end of benefits

This daylight saving plan seems to have no end of benefits. It sends men to work sooner, brings them home sooner, gives them a chance to work a bit more if they wish, or to play a great deal more in any case. Certainly an additional hour of daylight is worth two of darkness to the person who must labor for a living — as almost all of us do. It would seem to have been a happy conception that is to ease the burden of mankind and make things better all around.

Everyone is acquainted with the familiar adage about the early bird and the well-known worm. It has served as an admonition for many, many years, and gains new force from the present tendency to get all of the day that we possibly may.

Benjamin Franklin, that genial and observant philosopher, was a believer in the wholesome doctrine of early to bed and early to rise. He left behind a rather famous essay, talking to task the people of Paris for lying between the sheets overlong, perhaps allowing opportunity to knock at their door and go unheeded. His fellow countrymen are now about to try the great experiment of speeding up their day in order, at the same time, that they may enjoy life more.


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About this story

Source publication: The Evening World (New York, NY)

Source publication date: March 21, 1918

Filed under: 1910s, Culture & lifestyle, Money & work, Spring

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