The Curious Connection Between Daylight Savings Time And Military History

As someone who tends to find curious connections between a great deal of phenomena and military history [1] and someone who is remarkably critical about Daylight Savings Time [2], I think it would be worthwhile today to discuss the connection between Daylight Savings Time and Military History.  After all, Daylight Savings Time is still an issue that causes considerable amounts of controversy in our contemporary world.  The state of Florida recently passed a law putting them on Daylight Savings Time all year round, despite the fact that it makes for extremely dark mornings for schoolchildren.  I wonder if anyone told the people making the law that it was equivalent to putting Florida in the Atlantic Time Zone without Daylight Savings Time, putting them on the same schedule as St. Lucia and most of the other nations of the Caribbean.  This is all the more bizarre because Florida is considerably west of the rest of the Eastern Time Zone, which makes their adoption of the Atlantic Time Zone as they have done a thoroughly bizarre choice, ensuring late sunsets and late sunrises nearly year round.

While the uncharitable critic might consider this an act of war against the people of the state by subjecting them to dangerous health and safety risks in the lure of continual “savings” of daylight, the origins of Daylight Savings Time as a concept go back to the 19th century.  Benjamin Franklin is often thought of as an innovator with regards to Daylight Savings Time, but although in a satire he urged Parisians to get up with the sunrise and not waste the day and was famous for his cliche:  “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” he did not urge the establishment of a Daylight Savings Time because there was as of yet no standardized time around the world, largely because there was no instantaneous communication (like the telegraph) or high-speed railroad or other forms of transportation that would make such standardization appealing to governments.  In the late 19th century, of course, some of the more militaristic governments of Europe like Austria-Hungary and Germany led the way in establishing standardized time including Daylight Savings Time [3], but the United States was fairly slow in setting up such a system as the country has been fortunately slow in following many of the fads of European despotism.

It is notable that energy crises and wars have been the ways by which Daylight Savings Time achieved a widespread nature in the world, the first being perhaps a lighter form of the second.  Some, like Mary L. Dudziak, have stated that Daylight Savings Time in the United States became especially popular in World War II as a way for the common people to feel as if they were contributing something to the war effort by shifting their schedules an hour forward in the spring and an hour backwards in the fall even though this led to at best a minimal gain in terms of energy savings for so doing.  Farmers, whose schedule is determined more by sunlight anyway and for whom the loss of an hour most of the year to conduct business because of the later sunrise was a major negative, were not very fond of Daylight Savings Time and even today the idea is a controversial one.  Ultimately, it was politics and not economics that brought the concept into prominence, to the point where it can be said to be among the most popular of gimmicks to show that government is doing something about the desire for standardization and efficiency, even if the numbers never entirely add up.

While there may be little that ordinary people can do in the face of government interference with our sleep schedules on the scale of the imposition of Daylight Savings Time, we can use the rhetoric that is given about it to determine the extent to which someone is interested in useless gimmicks and irritations to the people and which people are more sober and restrained in their rhetoric.  All too often throughout the last 100 years the idea has been used as a way of increasing government control over time and has not provided the benefits that its boosters have promised.  The gains that are hoped for could be realized with a more sober and judicious use of time by which schedules expand and contract based on sensible seasons, but since we are prisoners of clocks and measured time, it makes sense that instead of being more flexible about schedules to reflect the changes of time throughout the year that the instinct is to shift the hours themselves in a jerky and problematic fashion.  Given the military context of Daylight Savings Time, it is hardly surprising that it should be enforced in such a militaristic fashion, though.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, History, Military History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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