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Daylight saving time starts Sunday

Daylight saving time starts Sunday

WWU Professor Craig Smith provides some humorous history on DST

March 10th, 2017 by Connor Pearson in Local News

The clock tower at Fulton City Hall.

Photo by Connor Pearson /Fulton Sun.

On your marks, get set, spring forward.

Clocks all around the U.S. enter daylight savings time at 2 a.m. Sunday. This period runs until 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 5.

Most smart phones will correct to daylight saving time automatically, but those who use a regular alarm clock should remember to advance the time by one hour before they go to bed.

A humorous history

Craig Smith, an assistant professor of history at William Woods University, said the history of daylight saving time has a humorous beginning.

"Benjamin Franklin is often credited with the original idea for daylight saving time," he said. "That's not entirely accurate. He didn't come up with the concept of daylight saving time."

What Franklin did do, however, was cause a stir in Paris, Smith said.

"In 1784, he was in Paris, right after the revolution," Smith said. "He was known to be quite the social individual and was always going to parties. He was one of the most famous people in the world."

After a long night of partying until 4 a.m., Smith said Franklin awoke to the morning sun at 6 a.m.

"He writes this anonymous letter to the editor to the Journal of Paris," he said. "In the letter, he says how shocked he is the sun is up at six, as he assumed the sun didn't rise till later. This is a joke, because most Parisians didn't get up before noon."

Smith said Franklin, ever one to promote thriftiness, included a plan to save the city money in his letter.

"At the time, there was a new type of oil lamp, the Quinquet-Lang lamp, that replaced candles," he said. "Franklin was thinking about what it cost to buy oil for the lamps vs. the cost of candles. Which was more cost effective?"

Franklin then offered in jest a suggestion for the sleepy Parisians, Smith said.

"He wondered what would happen if everyone got up early in the morning, then went to bed earlier," he said. "That way they were taking advantage of more daylight hours. More daylight equals less candles."

Smith said Franklin backed up his suggestion with some clever math.

"He averaged how many candles a person used over the course of six months," he said. "If people adopted his system, he figured he could save the City of Paris about 100,000,000 francs by just adjusting their sleep schedule."

To help enforce this system, Smith said Franklin offered some unconventional solutions.

"He proposed a tax on anyone who shuttered their windows during the day," he said. "He also suggested other measures to make sure people got up at dawn, saying that church bells should be rung and cannons should be fired."

Franklin's off the wall letter was all for a laugh, Smith said.

"It was all very much in jest," he said. "He was not actually suggesting the idea. So, in the end, while he is often credited with the idea of daylight saving time, that is not exactly accurate. He did, however, come up with the idea of adjusting sleep schedules to maximize light."