Founding father and quotable statesman Benjamin Franklin wrote an 18th-century proverb that said, "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."
If Franklin was alive today, he would be happy to know that most Americans will "spring forward" for daylight saving time this weekend and set their clocks an hour ahead. But while Franklin was prophetic in his famous saying, the nation can thank a Pittsburgher for that extra hour of daylight.
In 1917, an industrialist and Pittsburgh city councilman named Robert Garland devised the nation's first daylight saving plan. Mr. Garland championed an idea to set clocks ahead one hour in the spring so the sun appeared to rise and set an hour later.
The plan provided more hours of usable daylight for both outdoor occupations and recreational activities, while helping to conserve electricity. President Woodrow Wilson signed a law establishing daylight saving time across the United States in 1918, only to have it repealed one year later. In the years following, only a handful of U.S. cities maintained daylight time until Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, instituting a consistent daylight saving time.
By the time the 1973 oil shortage hit, Congress placed most of the nation on extended daylight saving time for two years in an attempt to save fuel. A Department of Transportation study at the time revealed a significant cutback in energy use -- nearly 10,000 barrels of oil daily.
The number of traffic accidents and injuries also decreased because commuters could safely drive home in natural sunlight.
Each year when you "spring forward" or "fall back," you can thank a Pittsburgher for this time-changing innovation. While Ben Franklin didn't invent daylight saving time, he sure had the right idea.
Visitors to the Heinz History Center can learn more about Ben Franklin's famous quotes and his incredible impact on the world in a new exhibition, "Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World," which opens on April 16. More information is available at www.heinzhistorycenter.org.