Friday, April 12, 2019

The Case Against Daylight Savings Time, from a Nineteenth Century Perspective

File:Fritz Fleischer-Mehr Licht!.jpgMy state is currently debating whether to remain in Daylight Savings Time all year long. More light in the evenings is said to prevent traffic accidents during our evening rush hour (not sure why we have fewer accidents in the morning—less tired, perhaps?). More evening light is thought to deter crime as well. Apparently, a state can stay on standard time all year without much hassle, but staying on Daylight Savings Time requires a waiver from the federal government. Hence, the debate.

Regardless, changing the clocks back and forth would not seem to serve the purpose it once did. I had always been told it had a farming benefit, but my husband (wise man that he is) pointed out that farmers rise with the sun, whenever the sun rises! So I did a little digging into the concept.

Daylight Savings Time was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin, half in jest, to help limit the amount of oil necessary for lamps to illuminate the evening hours. The idea took hold, however, for some in Britain, who argued in vain for some years (read decades). Germany was the first to advance the clock to allow more light in the evenings in the early 1900s. Britain followed, despite protests. For example, the Royal Observatory insisted on maintaining Greenwich Time steadily throughout the year.

But the argument that stood out to me came from Lord Balfour in Parliament. What if twins were born on either side of the fall switch? As the clock turned “back,” the second child would actually be born before the first! That could upset not only who inherited the property, but who inherited the title. Horrors! Though he worried about this around 1915, I can imagine our nineteenth century characters being just as concerned.

So, what if someone decided to promote Daylight Savings Time during the Regency. Can you picture the debate then?

Would someone please write that book? My plate, alas, is too full!


Marissa Doyle said...

You do know that my twins were born at 11:30 pm on a Thursday and 1:30 am on a Friday, yes? ;)

Regina Scott said...

I was fairly sure I remembered that correctly but didn't want to put it in just in case. Kind of cool they have two different birthdays, though. :-)