PHOTO: Daylight Savings Time

Blame it on Benjamin Franklin.

One summer day in 1784, when Franklin was serving as our new nation’s ambassador to France, he noticed how much daylight Parisians were wasting in bed, sleeping or otherwise, because the sun came up long before they thought it sensible to rise and shine.

Franklin suggested that the French, and his fellow Americans, move their clocks forward an hour in summer to better maximize old Sol.

He was more or less advised to go fly a kite, but the idea was planted. William Willett, an Englishman who liked to play golf in the afternoon, was pushing the idea in 1905, but it took a war to make Daylight Saving Time a reality.

During World War I, the German empire and Austria-Hungary were running low on coal, and having an extra hour of light in the summer evenings seemed like a good idea.

So, on April 30, 1916, in the midst of the war, countries sprang forward for the first time. Soon much of the Western world followed Germany’s example.

The United States adopted Daylight Savings Time in 1918. As the world moved from an agricultural society to an industrial one, it made more sense to move a little daylight from the morning to the evening.

Over the years, Daylight Saving Time has expanded. At the outset, it ran from late March to late October.

This year, the clock changed early this morning, and we won’t fall back until Nov. 1, due to the fact that, among other things, we do not want kids trick-or-treating in the dark.

In World War II and during the 1970s oil crisis, the U.S. temporarily made Daylight Saving Time a year-round proposition.

For retailers and golfers, among others, the extra hour of sunlight is a blessing. People are more prone to do and buy things after work if the sun’s still shining.

For farmers used to work patterns as old as time itself, and for school kids waiting for the bus in the dark, the move is not so beneficial. We save electricity, at least in temperate climes such as ours, but maybe it gets our circadian rhythms out of whack. Incidences of traffic accidents seem to rise.

Maybe the ancient Romans had the right idea. They divided the part of the day in which the sun shines into 12 hourly segments. Thus, a daylight hour in December might last 45 minutes while one in summer could be 75 minutes long.

Whatever your feelings about Daylight Saving Time, remember a couple of things:

Spring forward, so you don’t miss church.

And don’t expire between now and Nov. 1. Otherwise, that’s an hour you’ll never get back.

The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star

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