Many believe DST was implemented to provide farmers with an extra hour of sunlight. And there’s a common belief that Benjamin Franklin invented DST. However, both of these beliefs are more fiction than fact.
Benjamin Franklin did come up with the idea to set clocks forward an hour. He believed this would result in saving candles and lamp oil from burning and that this extra hour of daylight would lead to increased productivity. It’s likely this is where the common belief that DST was meant to benefit farmers came from.
In 1784, Franklin wrote a satirical essay called “An Economical Project,” in which he jokingly describes his brilliant realization that the sun provides light as soon as it rises. “I am convinced of this,” Franklin wrote. “I am certain of my fact. One cannot be more certain of any fact. I saw it with my own eyes.”
However, DST didn’t officially begin until World War I. The Germans were the first to establish a daylight saving program in May 1916 to conserve fuel during the war. The U.S. adopted a similar program in 1918.
After World War I concluded, the U.S. opted to end the DST program – and the arguments opposing DST were championed by the nation’s farmers, who wanted their hour of daylight in the mornings back. Years later, during World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt re-established DST on Feb. 9, 1942.
After the second world war ended, states were given the choice of continuing to follow DST and could decide on the days that it would begin and end. However, this led to chaos and confusion across the country. In 1966, Congress voted to establish the Uniform Time Act, which mandated all states following DST would share a uniform beginning and ending date.
Initially, DST began on the first Sunday in April and ended on the last Sunday in October. But in 2007, the Energy Policy Act was passed, extending DST by an extra four weeks. These are the DST dates we observe today.