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Changing the clocks again

March 8, 2013
The Daily News

Daylight saving time is about to begin.

This Sunday morning at 2 o'clock, or before you go to bed Saturday night, we'll move our clocks ahead by one hour.

We "spring ahead." In effect, we lose an hour's sleep.

Sure, we'll have to deal with the extra hour of darkness in the morning, but we'll also get an hour more of sunlight when we get off work and school

For most people, that extra time to enjoy the outdoors in the evening is worth it.

Each year, daylight saving begins on the second Sunday in March, and ends on the first Sunday in November, when clocks are turned back an hour.

The switch to daylight saving time is a familiar habit for Americans.

It wasn't always that way. Years ago, there was one time - sun time. Proposed in 1784 by 78-year-old Benjamin Franklin as a way of saving candles, daylight saving time was years in the making.

Today, there are four standardized time zones in the U.S - Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific.

About 120 years ago, there was as many as 27 different time zones - just in Michigan.

Before 1883, the time of day was a local matter. People called it "sun time."

Noon was when the sun was at its highest point in the sky.

Local folks set their timepieces by some well-known clock in their nearby community. Town hall clocks were more than decoration back then.

This meant that when it was noon in Chicago, it was 12:31 p.m. in Pittsburgh, 12:24 in Cleveland, 12:13 in Cincinnati, and 12:07 in Indianapolis

Or, when it was noon in Detroit, it was about 11:50 in Grand Rapids.

Michigan had at east 27 different local times.

Indiana was slightly less confusing with 23 local times.

Wisconsin was a watch repairman's nightmare with 38 local times.

"In every city and town," wrote historian Stewart Holbrook in 1947, "the multiplicity of time standards confused and bewildered passengers, shippers, and railway employees. Too often, errors and mistakes turned out disastrously, for railroads were now running fast trains on tight schedules; a minute or two might mean the difference between smooth operation and a collision."

Finally, America's railroads took control.

In 1872, railroad officials from around the country met in Missouri to arrange summer passenger schedules.

To address the time problem, they formed a permanent organization of private citizens to work on a solution.

In October 1883, this organization - the General Time Convention - approved a plan to establish standardized time zones.

Then, on Nov. 18, 1883, every railroad in the country adopted the new system. "Railroad time" quickly became the new "local time" everywhere - except in Detroit.

At that time, Detroit residents said that the sun, not man, dictates what time it is.

Time marched on, but Detroit didn't.

According to Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Detroit stuck to the sun time concept until 1900.

In 1900, city officials ordered clocks to be set back 28 minutes to comply with Central Standard Time. However, half the city obeyed the order and half refused.

Detroit City Council quickly rescinded the order and reverted to the old time.

This lasted until 1905 when, by a city-wide vote, Detroit adopted standard time and became part of the Central time zone.

Although nearly all Americans set their timepieces by these new time zones, the federal government was slow to embrace the idea.

In fact, it took 35 years for Congress to authorize the time zone idea. In March 1918, Congress approved time zones and a switch to daylight saving time to conserve fuel for the World War I effort.

At the same time, Congress moved Michigan into the Eastern time zone.

Michigan remained in the Eastern time zone for many years, until Michigan lawmakers approved moving the counties in the Upper Peninsula that border Wisconsin to join the Central time zone.

Daylight saving time is a dream for outdoor enthusiasts. The switch allows residents to enjoy the daylight hours into the evening.

Enjoy.

 
 

 

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