deco clockBefore the 1880s there was no standard time. It wasn’t until World War I that a time standard was enacted into law. Time was local. The clock on the town square, the church bell, or the clock on the barbershop or general store was the benchmark of the day. This created an obvious problem for trains, which must run on a predictable schedule. So the railroads created their own time standards. The problem was each of the railroads in the United States and Canada had their own standard. In February, 1879, Canadian Sanford Fleming, proposed a worldwide time standard at a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute. In October, 1883, The General Time Convention, (later renamed the American Railway Association) agreed to four standard time zones that all of the railways in the United States and Canada would follow. The Intercolonial Railway serving Nova Scotia and New Brunswick decided not to follow these zones and created their own fifth zone called Eastern Time. Major American observatories, including the Allegheny Observatory, the United States Naval Observatory the Harvard College Observatory and the Yale University Observatory, agreed to provide telegraphic time signals at noon Eastern Time.

Daylight Saving Time was first proposed in 1895 by a New Zealander, George Hudson, but it was the Germans who first implemented it in April 1916. The rationale was that industrialized societies follow a standard time schedule all year long for work shifts, sporting events, and transportation, but agrarian societies get up with the sun and work as long as there is light. A compromise meant that changing the clocks forward in the Spring and back in the fall provided both a standard and a way of extending the day for all kinds of recreational, social and business activities.

There have been many adjustments to when Standard time and Daylight Saving Time starts and stops, and there are also many exceptions. Some states ignore Daylight Saving Time altogether. Saskatchewan is located geographically in Mountain Time, but adheres to Central time, effectively making it on Daylight Saving Time year round.

In the Spring, a lot of people grumble at losing an hour’s sleep and in the fall, it is often dark at 4.30-5.00pm, depending on where you live, but there is a redeeming feature. When darkness arrives earlier than we’re used to, it gives us a chance to let the light shine in a different way, through our table lamps, chandeliers, and interesting lighting fixtures that show their best when lit.