Spring Forward. Did Benjamin Franklin Invent Daylight Saving Time?

March, 2018.

It was still winter in my driveway last week.


We sprung forward last week, and I’m happy to have the extra daylight in the evenings. I enjoy being outside, and while the weather hasn’t been too Spring-like I was already outside taking advantage of the light. But I didn’t realize until recently that Benjamin Franklin may have had a hand in our time adjustments. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised considering his influences on so many of the things we now take for granted, including civic responsibilities, like public libraries and volunteer fire departments.

Franklin was an amazingly perceptive person. You might think his involvement in the founding of our country was enough of an achievement, but he had many other extraordinary things on his mind. And he was quite an inventor, with stoves, chairs and the lightning rod among the items I’ve seen credited to him throughout his lifetime. But, did he also invent time itself? I just learned that although he didn’t necessarily “invent” Daylight Saving Time, he did present the idea to the people of Paris.

While living in Paris in 1784, Franklin wrote a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris suggesting that if people would get out bed earlier in the morning and go to bed earlier at night they could save a lot of money from using fewer candles. He supposedly meant it as a joke, and he didn’t suggest that the clocks themselves should change.

Franklin was a guy who didn’t like to waste time. Perhaps this is apparent by all of his accomplishments. Just one of his titles would be more than enough for most people, but Franklin was determined to make the most of every moment. Beyond his Inventor status it seems that he had a role in almost everything, including Founding Father, Scientist, Statesman, Philosopher, Postmaster, Printer, Writer, Landlord, and apparently he was also quite a Comedian.

Eventually his advice was taken seriously. Germany was the first country to enact Daylight Saving Time in 1916, as a measure to save electricity by making the evenings longer. Others followed, with some controversy and some back and forth changes over the years, but many countries follow Daylight Saving Time today.

Over the years some justification for Daylight Saving Time was the supposed increase in work time, but I believe that is considered a myth by those who work outside. Just ask the farmers who get up early anyway, and lose the light in the mornings. As a painting company we may occasionally benefit from some extra daylight during the summers, but for the most part, as with everybody else, I think it just extends our outdoor leisure time in the evenings.

I’ll take it.

Suggested Reading:   The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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