Although standard time in time zones was instituted in the U.S. and Canada by the railroads in 1883, it was not established in U.S. law until the Act of March 19, 1918, sometimes called the Standard Time Act. The act also established daylight saving time, a contentious idea then. Daylight saving time was repealed in 1919, but standard time in time zones remained in law. Daylight time became a local matter. It was re-established nationally early in World War II, and was continuously observed from 9 February 1942 to 30 September 1945. After the war its use varied among states and localities. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 provided standardization in the dates of beginning and end of daylight time in the U.S. but allowed for local exemptions from its observance. The act provided that daylight time begin on the last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October, with the changeover to occur at 2 a.m. local time.
During the "energy crisis" years, Congress enacted earlier starting dates for daylight time. In 1974, daylight time began on 6 January and in 1975 it began on 23 February. After those two years the starting date reverted back to the last Sunday in April. In 1986, a law was passed that shifted the starting date of daylight time to the first Sunday in April, beginning in 1987. The ending date of daylight time was not subject to such changes, and remained the last Sunday in October. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 changed both the starting and ending dates. Daylight time starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. On the second Sunday in March, clocks are set ahead one hour at 2:00 a.m. local standard time, which becomes 3:00 a.m. local daylight time. On the first Sunday in November, clocks are set back one hour at 2:00 a.m. local daylight time, which becomes 1:00 a.m. local standard time.
Not all places in the U.S. observe daylight time. In particular, Hawaii and most of Arizona do not use it. Indiana adopted its use beginning in 2006.
Safety Tip: Change the battery in your smoke detectors today!
The concept of Daylight Saving Time was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin as an American delegate in Paris. In a letter to the Journal de Paris Franklin noted that much discussion had followed the demonstration of an oil lamp the previous evening concerning the amount of oil used in relation to the quantity of light produced. He outlined several amusing regulations that Paris might adopt to help. He parodied himself, his love of thrift, his scientific papers and his passion for playing chess until the wee hours of the morning then sleeping until midday. The letter was published in the Journal on April 26, 1784, under the English title "An Economical Project".
Daylight Saving Time was first seriously proposed in London in 1907 by William Willett in the pamphlet, "Waste of Daylight". He proposed advancing clocks 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and setting them back by the same amount on four Sundays in September. The idea met with ridicule and opposition and was rejected by the British government. Daylight Saving Time was first implemented during World War I and again in World War II to conserve energy. Germany was the first nation to adopt daylight time during the First World War in 1915. Britain, parts of Europe, Canada and the United States quickly followed suit. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which requested all states to observe Daylight Saving Time, unless a state exempted itself. Currently, 47 states in the US and over 70 countries observe DST.
By observing Daylight Saving Time we, in effect, create an extra hour of daylight in the evening. An hour in which less lighting is used and thus less electricity. Studies from the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Transportation have shown that we reduce the entire country's usage of electricity by about 1% each day with Daylight Saving Time. Other studies have shown that the extra hour of evening daylight relates to a reduction in traffic fatalities and the likelihood of pedestrians being killed on the roads. Crime is also reduced since more people have the opportunity to arrive home before darkness sets in, a time when burglars prefer to operate.
General Election Day occurs on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. United States senators and congressmen are elected every two years, in even numbered years. The presidential election occurs every four years in years divisible by four (2000, 2004, 2008, etc.). Elections held in odd numbered years are often used for local mayoral elections and other municipal offices and citizen initiatives.
The Tuesday after the first Monday in November was initially established in 1845 (US Code Title 3, Chapter 1) for the appointment of Presidential electors in every fourth year. US Code Title 2, Chapter 1, Section 7 established this date for electing U.S. Representatives in every even numbered year in 1875. Finally, US Code Title 2, Chapter 1 established this date as the time for electing U.S. Senators in 1914.
Americans observed the first uniform election day on November 4, 1845 in accordance with Congressional legislation passed earlier that year. The law, which ensured the simultaneous selection of presidential electors in each state, increased the power of political parties and reflected the democratization of presidential politics which had taken place since 1820.
As late as 1816, the citizens of nine states did not vote in presidential elections. Instead, previously elected state legislators chose the presidential electors who then determined the outcome of the contest.