Daylight Savings Time Had Nothing To Do With Farming

As the summer rounds to an end, we dread the fact that the sun will soon be going down earlier. What doesn’t help is that during the first week of November most areas across the U.S. “fall back,” or set the clocks back an additional hour. The time, known as Daylight Savings Time, lasts for eight months out of the year (March through October). Certain regions move their clocks forward, returning them to normal in the fall.

So what’s the deal? Why are we messing with our time and calling it Daylight Savings when we seem to just be losing daylight in the fall?

The sun sets over the bay and the One World Trade Center
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

One false claim about DST is that it started because farmers wanted to farm longer. In actuality, farmers objected to the whole thing from the start. They argued that they get up early, and that pushing the clocks back an hour would delay their work.

Daylight Savings Time has nothing to do with farming. It has to do with money.

Many people erroneously attribute Daylight Savings Time with Benjamin Franklin. The lightning rod inventor did favor the idea of maximizing daylight waking hours, but did not propose the idea of actually moving clocks forward. The confusion surrounding Franklin and DST comes from a satirical essay he wrote that people who woke at dawn could save tons of money through “the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.” But he didn’t suggest changing the time.

An Englishman named William Willett came up with the idea to adjust the time in 1905. He had the thought that between April and October, people should move their clocks forward by 80 minutes. A few years earlier, a New Zealander named George Hudson also came up with the idea of a two-hour time change. Neither man never lived to see his idea come to fruition.

Germany embraced daylight saving time to conserve electricity in World War I. The UK adopted the procedure soon after, and the U.S. eventually did as well. Here we are 100 years later, still confused about whether we gain or lose an hour of sleep.