Most of the United States has enjoyed an extra hour of daylight since the spring. But that’s coming to an end. On Nov. 5, at 2:00 a.m. Americans will “fall back” and set their clocks back an hour, as daylight saving time comes to an end for the year.
Why do we observe Daylight Saving Time?
Germany established Daylight Saving Time in May 1916 as a way to conserve fuel during World War I. The rest of Europe came onboard shortly thereafter.
In April 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson declared war, energy conservation was of paramount importance. Efforts were launched to enlist public support for changing the clocks. A group called the National Daylight Saving Convention distributed postcards showing Uncle Sam holding a garden hoe and rifle, turning back the hands of a huge pocket watch. Voters were asked to sign and mail to their congressman postcards that declared, “If I have more daylight, I can work longer for my country. We need every hour of light.” Posters chided, “Uncle Sam, your enemies have been up and are at work in the extra hour of daylight—when will YOU wake up?” And in 1918, the United States adopted daylight saving time.
In 1920 the law was repealed due to opposition from dairy farmers (cows don’t pay attention to clocks). At the start of WWII, on Feb. 9, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt re-established daylight saving time year-round. In order to save energy, clocks were set one hour.
The current daylight saving period was established when the Energy Policy Act of 2005 went into effect in 2007. As a result, most Americans now spring forward (turn clocks ahead and lose an hour) on the second Sunday in March (at 2:00 A.M.) and fall back (turn clocks back and gain an hour) on the first Sunday in November (at 2:00 A.M.).
Doesn’t Daylight Saving Time Benefit Farmers?
Many Americans wrongly point to farmers as the driving force behind Daylight Saving Time. In fact, farmers were its strongest opponents and, as a group, stubbornly resisted the change from the beginning.
After WWI, the farmers and working-class people who had held their tongues began to speak out. They demanded an end to Daylight Saving Time, claiming that it benefited only office workers and the leisure class. The controversy put a spotlight on the growing gap between rural and urban dwellers. As a writer for the Literary Digest put it, “The farmer objects to doing his early chores in the dark merely so that his city brother, who is sound asleep at the time, may enjoy a daylight motor ride at eight in the evening.”
Even today, farmers’ organizations lobby Congress against the practice, preferring early daylight to dry their fields and a Standard Time sunset for ending their work at a reasonable hour. Some farmers point out that the Daylight Saving Time is deceptively misnamed. “It is a gimmick that changes the relationship between ‘Sun’ time and ‘clock’ time but saves neither time nor daylight,” says a spokesperson for the Indiana Farm Bureau.