Bugs, golf and war: the chaotic history of Daylight Saving Time

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every year, like clockwork, it comes. A dreaded day that has been linked to drowsiness, car accidents and even depression — Daylight Saving Time.

While many people throughout history have suggested adjusting clocks to better suit the season, including Benjamin Franklin, the modern practice of DST can be traced to two men.

The first was George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand who proposed the idea because he, no joke, wanted more time to look for bugs.

The second was the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, a man named William Willet. Willet pitched the idea to British Parliament because he, again no joke, wanted more time to golf.

In 1908, the city of Port Arthur, Ontario became the first city to practice DST. Eight years later, the German Empire, in an effort to conserve coal during World War I, took up Willet’s idea and became the first country to use it. Soon after, nearly every other country embroiled in the war started springing their clocks forward.

Stop blaming farmers for DST

Getting everyone to take up DST wasn’t that easy. In 1918, farmers actually lobbied against a law that would make DST standard in the US. They won. Repealing the law in 1919. However, states with urban centers still practiced DST. This makes sense. Farmers usually base their day around the sun, and shifting clocks would make it more difficult for them to sell goods in town. In urban centers, consumers are more willing to shop when there’s more daylight after they get off work.

Over the next 50 years, various states had various rules when it came to DST. With Time Magazine calling the whole situation a “chaos of clocks” in 1963.

Three years later, enough was enough and the Uniform Time Act was passed. DST was now official in the US.

Getting rid of DST?

It seems every year someone is tired of changing their clocks twice a year. In 2017 and 2019, Texas lawmakers pushed to abolish the biannual time change. Both attempts failed.

Hawaii abandoned the law in 1967, just one year after the national law was passed. Because the state’s proximity to the equator meant the sun rose and set at about the same time every day, DST didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Arizona did away with it in 1968. However, the Navajo Nation in the northeast part of the state still observes the change because the tribe extends into several other states.

Around the world, DST isn’t very common. Countries near the equator are in the same situation as Hawaii. While in much of Asia and South America, DST was used for a bit, then abandoned. Today, about 70 countries put themselves through the time change.

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