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Nope, not Franklin

The Legal Genealogist is no fan of changing the clocks twice a year.

It doesn’t truly save time anywhere. It throws off circadian rhythms for days, even weeks, after each change.

And you will never ever get my cat to accept that a clock change means he gets fed an hour earlier or later depending on the time of year.

So… who do we blame for this anyway?

Not Benjamin Franklin.

1918 law daylight time

Yes, he wrote an essay in 1794 1784 (thanks to Eric Grundset!) suggesting that there were benefits to natural sunlight as opposed to artificial light, and then satirically suggesting things like a tax on shuttered windows and a limit on supplies of candles.1

No, he didn’t seriously suggest changing the clocks.

The dude who did seriously suggest changing the clocks was a New Zealander named George Hudson, an entomologist who wanted more sunlight to collect insects. That proposal, in 1895, went nowhere.2

A British builder named William Willett championed the idea in England in 1907, and that proposal didn’t really gain traction there until the First World War.3 That’s when the other side in that war — the German Empire and Austria-Hungary — implemented it on a national basis. (A couple of cities in Canada went that route even earlier.)4

And the United States didn’t adopt Daylight Saving Time until 1918.5 And then dumped it in 1919, with two-thirds of Congress even overriding a presidential veto to do so.6 At that point, changing the clocks became a local option.

World War II brought the notion back nationwide, from 1942-1945, but under the language of the enabling law, that ended six months after the war ended, at which time everything reverted back to local option.7

Congress finally adopted the Uniform Time Act in 1966, which provided for clock-changing and allowed any state that wanted to opt out to do so on a statewide basis.8

With some periods of mandatory compliance during the energy crises of the 1970s, that’s still the law today, and you can find it in Title 15 of the United States Code starting at section 260.

So… sigh… changing the clocks twice a year is the law here in the United States. But it’s only been the law in fairly recent years.

Which means we as genealogists can’t go writing about how our ancestors farther back in time than 1918 futzed around with changing their clocks.

And that we shouldn’t blame Benjamin Franklin for that stitch in time.

For this buggy idea, we can blame a New Zealand insect collector instead.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “That stitch in time,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 8 Nov 2021).


  1. See “Did Ben Franklin invent Daylight Saving Time?,” The Franklin Institute ( : accessed 8 Nov 2021).
  2. See Wikipedia (, “Daylight saving time,” rev. 8 Nov 2021.
  3. See ibid., “William Willett,” rev. 30 Oct 2021.
  4. Ibid., “Daylight saving time,” rev. 8 Nov 2021.
  5. “An Act To save daylight and to provide standard time for the United States,” 40 Stat. 450 (19 Mar 1918).
  6. “An Act For the repeal of the daylight-saving law,” 41 Stat. 280 (20 Aug 1919).
  7. “AN ACT To promote the national security and defense by establishing daylight saving time,” 59 Stat. 9 (20 Jan 1942).
  8. See “An Act to promote the observance of a uniform system of time throughout the United States,” 80 Stat. 107 (13 Apr 1966).
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