Blog Post: Time to Spring Forward: A History of Daylight Saving Time

The days are already getting longer, and soon we’ll “spring forward” to Daylight Saving Time (DST) – on March 13, to be exact.  At 2:00 am on this date, we’ll “lose” an hour, just as during the fall, we “gain” one.

While most people do not enjoy the “fall back” in which the days feel darker and shorter, we do love that extra hour to sleep in it brings us! Not so with springing forward (although we love the longer days!) There have been documented cases of more traffic accidents due to driver sleep deprivation during this time. In fact, there are also cases of accidents during the fall back period – researchers think that drivers are challenged by the change in routine that a different level of light brings, during both seasons. (1) So if you plan to be driving in the week following the start or end of DST, please take caution!

The subject of much conversation and anecdote, DST is a phenomenon of modern culture that has an interesting history.

Although the first country to use DST was Germany, in the year 1916, to save fuel during World War 1, Thunder Bay ON was the first location to use it, in 1908. Regina SK implemented it in 1914, followed by Winnipeg and Brandon MB in 1916. Halifax NS, Hamilton ON, Montreal QC and St. John’s NFLD were also using DST before 1918.

DST was introduced in the USA in 1918 to support the War Effort. It was known then as “Fast Time”.  The DST law was repealed seven months later, although Pittsburgh, New York and Boston continued to use it. In 1942 until 1945 it was instituted year round in the States and Canada, also as part of the War Effort – this time, the second World War. In the years following this war, a variety of DST rules were applied across the States, leading to much scheduling confusion for transportation systems. In 1966 a law was passed called the Uniform Time Act, which created consistency (although states were still allowed to exempt themselves).

Under the Uniform Time Act, DST started on the last Sunday in April and ended on the last Sunday of October.  The period of time of DST was revised several times over the coming years. Since the 1960s, Canada has followed the States closely or completely on DST, given the close social and economic relationship between the two countries. Currently (since 2007) DST starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

One interesting fact: most of the province of Saskatchewan does not “spring forward” and “fall back”, but observes DST year round, due to its being geographically in the MST time zone, but officially in the Central time zone.

The internet offers up some funny anecdotes related to DST:

“Widespread confusion was created during the 1950s and 1960s when each U.S. locality could start and end Daylight Saving Time as it desired. One year, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates were used in Iowa alone. For exactly five weeks each year, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were not on the same time as Washington D.C., Cleveland, or Baltimore--but Chicago was. And, on one Ohio to West Virginia bus route, passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles!” (2)

“While twins born at 11:55 p.m. and 12:05 a.m. may have different birthdays, Daylight Saving Time can change birth order -- on paper, anyway. During the time change in the fall, one baby could be born at 1:55 a.m. and the sibling born ten minutes later, at 1:05 a.m. In the spring, there is a gap when no babies are born at all: from 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. In November 2007, Laura Cirioli of North Carolina gave birth to Peter at 1:32 a.m. and, 34 minutes later, to Allison. However, because Daylight Saving Time reverted to Standard Time at 2:00 a.m., Allison was born at 1:06 a.m.” (2)

Winston Churchill once described Daylight Saving Time like this: “An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn… We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.” (3)

Whatever your opinion on DST is, one thing is for sure – “springing forward” heralds the coming of light, spring, warmth and good weather! And we are all looking forward to that!

By Charlotte Clarke, Marketing Coordinator at Luther Village on the Park

Other sources for this article: