Sunday, March 12, 2017

Civil War Sunday - Does Anyone Know What Time it Is?

Today, Daylight Savings Time began in the United States.  

Is this really necessary?
 
At 2am today, most parts of the United States suddenly lost an hour.  The clocks moved to 3am, and we (except for night workers and late partiers) slept on.  In the mornings may of us felt disoriented as the sunshine outside did not match up to the sun. Now, as I write this close to 6pm in upstate New York, it looks like there is too much light out there.  I'll feel out of balance for another day or so, and I am not the only person.

In fact, more and more of us ask - why do we do this, anyway?

This is the day we in the United States (except in Arizona, Hawaii and some territories and possessions such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) go on Daylight Savings Time.  "Spring ahead, fall back" we remind ourselves. (We will get the "lost" hour back on the first Sunday in November.)

But never mind Daylight Savings Time.  Did you know there was a time when there were no standardized time zones in the United States?  And, that the Civil War was fought during that era?

As important as railroads were to the fighting of the Civil War, even the railroads hadn't yet found a way around coping with possibly up to 8,000 - yes, 8,000 - time zones in the United States. Local cities and towns set their own time, depending on the height of the sun in the sky to tell them when high noon was.  So, New York City might be on a different time than a city an hour away by train.  Just think of writing schedules, when every city had its own version of what time it was.

Each city and town having its own time worked when transportation was by walking or traveling by horse.  But, trains could run much faster.  And, I found something interesting online - a map from 1861, published two months after the Civil War began - something called "Lloyd's Americn Railroad Map, Showing the Whole Seat of War." 

On the map is a device called a Time Dial, which the railroads used to try to keep track of all those different local times, at least for 28 different cities.

Who said people in the 1860's weren't high tech?

Even the Civil War couldn't standardize time.  I had a brief taste of this kind of non-standardization for several years where my spouse and I traveled through Indiana on occasion.  Part of Indiana is on Eastern time. Part is on Central time.  Part was on Daylight time.  Part wasn't. 

Time wove back and forth and back and forth as we traveled from county to county. If we got out of your car to get gas, it was our best guess (in these days before Internet and cell phones) if we were on the same time as our last stop, an hour ahead, an hour behind, or even, the dreaded two hours behind.  (This situation was somewhat fixed in 2006).

Meanwhile, back to the 1800's. The railroads finally decided, in 1883, that they had had enough of local time. If the government wasn't going to standardize time, they would.  And so, on November 18, 1883, nearly twenty years after the Civil War ended, American and Canadian railroads started to use four standard time zones in the continental United States and Canada.  Municipalities and states followed.  And that is why we have "Standard" time zones even today.

Does your county or country go on Daylight Savings Time?
This was originally posted on March 9, 2014.  I made some minor changes.

14 comments:

  1. That's an interesting history of standardized time. As a software developer daylight savings time and the inconsistency between time zones gives me nightmares!

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    1. I wonder if we will see daylight savings time disappear in the next few years, where we'll go on some kind of year round system. More and more, I think people are just tired of the twice a year switch.

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  2. Did you know that Michigan and Indiana have two time zones? I have harped on this issue so much I am sure folks want to stuff a sock in my mouth. We are all slaves to the clock. And for what purpose?

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    1. I think more and more people are agreeing with you. I must say, though, that I do enjoy light until almost 9pm during the summer. But, yes, there has to be "a better way".

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  3. Such an informative post, Alana. Loved travelling through history with you. Glad you shared so much with us.

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    1. Thank you. I love telling the stories of history.

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  4. Thank you for an informative post, Alana. It was great to know new things. :)

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  5. I didn't know that about the railroads. That had to have been complicated.

    We lost the hour Sunday. I don't like it the first week or so when I feel like I'm losing sleep, but I much prefer the extra daylight, so I think it's worth it.

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    1. If they ever do away with daylight time, I hope they "split the difference" and give us, perhaps, 1/2 extra hour in the evening. I love those late sunsets, too.

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  6. I knew the railroads made the time zones, but I didn't realize it took until 1883. Yikes.

    Daylight Saving doesn't bother me overly much. I know some people who hate it. My mother loves it. Hates going to Standard Time. I figure I'll adjust pretty quickly.

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    1. I know a lot of people who are lagged when the time changes come. For me, it takes about two days to fully adjust.

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