“Spring forward, fall back,” — that’s a helpful trick to remember when you are wondering what to do with your watches and wall clocks when it’s time to adjust to Daylight Saving Time. If you rely on your smartphone or your laptop to keep track of time, you will not have to worry about manually adjusting the clocks, they will “spring forward” for you.
Things were not always that easy. When Daylight Saving Time was first introduced in the U.S. in 1918, Pittsburg was ‘h’-less and television and smart gadgets were not around yet, so Pittsburgh newspapers obsessively reminded the city dwellers to shift the clock. There were front-page articles and a cartoon in The Pittsburg Press showing Pittsburghers on a promenade at Market Square with a headline, “HOW DAYLIGHT SAVING HITS PITTSBURG TODAY!”
The sun is depicted smiling and, looking down on fashionably dressed Pittsburghers, it says, “Yes, more time to display their Easter toggery. And tomorrow more daylight for work!”
The article on the front page of the Sunday edition, on March 31, 1918, pointed out the historical significance of the change:
“For the first time in 22 years, at 2 a.m. today, the master clock in the department of public safety building was regulated. The hands were put forward one hour to comply with the daylight saving law, which went into effect at that time. Twenty-two years ago the clock was found to be a few minutes ‘off’ and was regulated, and since that time no change has been made in it.
A great many persons sat up until 2 a.m. today to set off their clocks forward at the official hour. But the majority simply turned their clocks forward before they went to bed at their usual retiring hour last night.
In the courthouse and all county offices, the clocks were turned forward when the employees left at noon. County Commissioner Myer made a little speech when the change was made in the commissioner’s office.”
Today, we hear some dissent, people argue that the concept of Daylight Savings Time does not make sense, but back in 1918, most folks supported it:
“The unanimous approval given the observance of the law makes it an easy one to enforce. Everybody apparently sees the wisdom of securing an extra hour of daylight, especially as the war garden season is at hand.”
After World War I, the U.S. Congress repealed the Daylight Saving law. However certain cities and states kept observing the practice until President Roosevelt signed a year-round “War Time” DST in 1942. It lasted until September 1945.
From 1945 to 1966 there was no federal law regulating Daylight Saving Time, so it was completely up to cities and states whether they wanted to adopt DST or drop it entirely. Mayor David L. Lawrence, for example, made Daylight Saving Time official in Pittsburgh in 1948 and even demonstrated how to move the clock’s hands in a photo that appeared in The Pittsburgh Press a week before DST was to go into effect.
Only in 1966, President Lyndon signed an act into law “whereby Daylight Saving Time begins on the last Sunday of April and ends on the last Sunday of October each year.” President George H. W. Bush as part of the energy policy bill changed the DST law to say, “Beginning 2007, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March. Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.”
So, here comes the sun and the excited tweets, marveling at the fact that it’s still light out. And in case you are still into candles, you are probably happy to save on your candle wax.