Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Benjamin Franklin

March Ahead Sunday, It’s Daylight Saving Time

Clocks will spring forward at 2 AM Sunday as Daylight Saving Time commences. Don’t forget to change your clocks.

Why do we observe Daylight Saving Time, other than to enjoy an extra hour of summer sunshine? Daylight Saving Time is a way of getting more light out of the day . . . the sun appears to rise one hour later in the morning, when people are usually asleep anyway, and sets one hour later in the evening, seeming to stretch the day longer.

For one night (tonight) we have the reality of 60 fewer minutes of sleep, but ahead are many months of an extra hour of evening sunlight. Starting tomorrow, there will be a little more “day” in everyone’s day.

But, why change the clocks at all? Is it really worth having to readjust our internal clock by an hour twice a year? Do you know who came up with this idea of saving daylight?

Benjamin Franklin often receives credit for the idea of what we now call Daylight Saving Time. As an American delegate in Paris in 1784, Franklin published an essay titled “An Economical Project,” in which he made the simple argument that natural light is cheaper than artificial light. However, what many people probably don’t know is that Franklin’s essay was written, rather tongue-in-cheek; he actually wrote it as a joke.

Franklin knew that the Parisians were notorious for ‘sleeping-in’, and he wrote in the essay that he was accidentally awaken one morning at 6 AM, only to “discover” that the sun actually shines at that hour. This got Franklin to thinking and he calculated that if he slept until noon (as he wrote was usual in Paris!), and then stayed awake six hours later in the evening, he would have “wasted” the free daylight and would have to pay for it with artificial light.

With a humorous bent, Franklin went on to offer some “regulations” that might aid in saving money. These included a tax on every window built with shutters, rationing candles, limited horse-drawn carriages on the streets after sunset, and ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise to wake everyone up. He wrote, “Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is probable he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening.”

Franklin’s idea of making better use of daylight hours . . . “saving” daylight actually was not put into practice until the 20th century. The practice of setting the clocks ahead one hour in the spring in order to make better use of the daylight hours was first put into action during WWI as an effort to save fuel.

Not everyone in the U.S. makes the switch from standard time. The exceptions are Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.

So, most of the nation will try to adjust to “springing ahead” or “marching ahead” an hour before going to bed tonight (or scrambling to do it Sunday morning).

It’s not all good news for light-lovers . . . the change does mean an hour less sleep tonight!

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