by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr. Weirs Times Contributing Writer
Daylight Savings Time, though perhaps never considered a major political or social issue, seems to have always been a controversial idea, particularly when we realize that we mere humans cannot change the amount of daylight so we try to adjust our schedules to get the most out of what is given to us, verifying that we usually prefer light over darkness.
Having lived at different times in several different states, my observation is that some people seem to handle the change from Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time and vice versa more easily than do others. As the Pastor of a church in rural Pennsylvania, I was surprised to find that during the period of Daylight Savings Time a husband and wife among my good parishioners used different timepieces. The husband refused to change from Standard Time based on his belief that Daylight Savings Time was the Devil’s time. The Mrs. set her clock ahead one hour at the prescribed time in the Spring, so when the clock on her side of the bed read 8:00 o’clock, the clock on his side of the bed read 7:00 o’clock. They arrived at the church building on Sunday mornings together in the same car, but he was there at 8:30 and she at 9:30.
When I was pastoring a church in rural Vermont, I had a parishioner who was habitually late for the Sunday Morning Church Service. However, he also didn’t keep advised of time changes, so on one Sunday in the fall I could expect him to be on time for church, while in the spring I would look for him to make his entrance at the conclusion of the Worship Service.
New Hampshire residents were apparently not very receptive to the idea of Daylight Savings Time when it was first imposed upon them in 1918 by Congress during the First World War. Germany was the first to adopt DST in 1916 in an effort to make their military efforts more effective through the saving of fuel by more daylight energy usage. England followed them and the United States joined the practice during the war.
An unsuccessful attempt was made to adopt Daylight Savings Time in Massachusetts in 1909 by Congressman Andrew Peters, who also held the office of Mayor of Boston.
Though the proposal was supported by industrial interests and retail outlets, it was opposed by the influential railroads and farmers. The legislation was turned down. In 1916 a hearing was conducted in Manchester, New Hampshire, to consider daylight savings action, but serious opposition ended that movement. In 1919 the United States Congress repealed the federal law and left the decision about continuing daylight savings legislation to the individual states even though the Chamber of Commerce and other groups lobbied to have it continued. Numerous cities, however, including Boston and New York City, adopted regulations to continue daylight saving practices.
New Hampshire appears to have generally continued opposition to Daylight Savings Time, even imposing a fine of up to $500 if a person’s clock or watch displayed Daylight Savings Time. The term “fast time” was often used instead of “daylight savings ”.
New Hampshire Governor John H. Bartlett was an opponent of Daylight Savings Time and in April of 1920 sent a telegram to President Woodrow Wilson asking him to let Senators and Congressmen know “that New Hampshire demanded prompt action to remedy the injustice being done to the rural communities through changes in railroad schedules to conform to daylight saving hours.” What Governor Bartlett didn’t know was that President Wilson was in favor of continuing the observance of Daylight Savings Time.
Two times the U.S. Congress passed laws against continuing DST and two times the President vetoed the legislation, but Congress voted to override the veto. By the way, though DST was touted as being beneficial to farmers, the only group of people who organized against changing the time on clocks twice a year were the farmers. Massachusetts enacted a daylight savings law in 1921 and the state’s farmers sued to return to Standard Time, but lost their case.
New Hampshire was effected by the Massachusetts law, partially because it complicated railroad schedules with the clocks on the other side of the border showing different times. The Boston and Maine Railroad changed its policy to adapt to the Massachusetts law but reportedly didn’t change its clocks and watches; however, it did change its train schedule so that trains ran an half hour earlier. Towns like Exeter, Derry and Nashua were forced to make changes in practices to adjust to Massachusetts DST law.
During World War II Daylight Savings Time was once again put into effect nationwide from 1942-45 with a year long change referred to as “War Time”, but, also once again, was lifted after the war and left for the individual states and communities to decide what to do about saving daylight until 1966 when uniform federal guidelines were put into place, though participation was apparently optional.
An early proponent, though probably not a serious one, was Benjamin Franklin. He is blamed by some with bringing up the idea of saving daylight in the first place. While in Paris he is said to have woken up early one morning and found the sun rising and realized that he and others who slept late into the morning were missing out on a lot of daylight. Franklin wrote that the city of Paris should ring church bells and fire cannons to rouse the people earlier during the summer. He estimated how much could be saved on candles and lamp oil if citizens went to bed earlier and got up at sunrise.
Wrestling with the problem of managing daylight well seems to be a continuous pursuit. Remember that before Daylight Savings Time there was Standard Time in time zones instituted by the railroads in the United States and Canada on November 18, 1883. Before Standard Time local practices varied from place to place based on some type of Solar Time. Today, the quest to improve the quality of life by adjusting our clocks to the light of day goes on with several New England States considering changing to Atlantic Time as a year-long solution. It is my understanding that the New Hampshire House of Representatives has just voted to do what Massachusetts does, that is to adopt Atlantic Time if Massachusetts makes that choice. The New Hampshire Senate must now decide if the state will take another step towards being like Massachusetts. But you should know that the United States Congress or Department of Transportation needs to approve any time change.