Daylight saving time probably began with the cavemen. And the controversy over daylight saving time probably started soon thereafter.
Throughout history, cultures have adjusted their artificial calendars and times to match up with the lengthening and shortening of the days.
Benjamin Franklin famously joked in a lighthearted essay that the city of Paris should sound church bells and fire cannons to rouse the populace earlier in the summer. Franklin made the observation after realizing how much was being spent on candles and lamp oil to light the night while people routinely slept through valuable early morning daylight.
As societies became more governed by clocks, the joking turned serious. The idea was brought forward by a New Zealander who liked to make the most of available daylight collecting insects. His idea of resetting the clocks was picked up by English politicians, but it was derided as “Daylight Slaving Time.”
In the United States, it was Massachusetts Congressman Andrew Peters, who also served as mayor of Boston, who introduced legislation on the matter in 1909. It went nowhere. While retailers and industry supported the idea, it was opposed by the powerful railroads and farmers.
In 1916, Germany adopted the practice in its efforts to maximize the efficiency of its war efforts, and it was the war that brought it into practice in the United States in 1918. Still hugely unpopular, Congress tossed the issue to the states in 1919, allowing each state to decide the issue – despite continued protestations of Peters and others that the practice was a success.
Daylight Saving Time made a comeback in World War II, and finally became nearly universally applied in the 1970s as the result of the energy crisis, which made it essential to wring as much use as possible from every hour of daylight.