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FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America: Ask-A-Desi

This section will attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Life in the US, Canada and North America that immigrants, visitors and others from different cultures attempt to address. If you have any additional inputs or wish  to see more topics addressed, mail us at

When Does Daylight Saving Time Begin and End? Starting in 2007, daylight time begins in the United States on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. On the second Sunday in March, clocks are set ahead one hour at 2:00 a.m. local standard time, which becomes 3:00 a.m. local daylight time. On the first Sunday in November, clocks are set back one hour at 2:00 a.m. local daylight time, which becomes 1:00 a.m. local standard time. These dates were established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Pub. L. no. 109-58, 119 Stat 594 (2005).

Daylight Saving Time: Time Zone and Time Changes

History of Daylight Saving Time

Daylight saving time is time observed when clocks and other timepieces are set ahead so that the sun will rise and set later in the day as measured by civil time. The amount of daylight on a given day of the year at any given latitude is fixed, but over the year the hours of sunrise and sunset vary from day to day. During the summer months, the sun rises earlier and sets later and thus there are more hours of daylight. If clocks are set ahead in the spring by some amount (usually one hour), the sun will rise and set later in the day as measured by those clocks. This provides more usable hours of daylight for activities that occur in the afternoon and evening such as outdoor recreation. Daylight saving time can also be a means of conserving electrical and other forms of energy. In the fall, as the period of daylight grows shorter, clocks are set back to correspond to standard time.

Benjamin Franklin, when serving as US minister to France, wrote an article recommending earlier opening and closing of shops to save the cost of lighting. In England, William Willett in 1907 began to urge the adoption of daylight saving time. During World War I the plan was adopted in England, Germany, France and many other countries. In the US, Robert Garland of Pittsburgh was a leading influence in securing the introduction and passage of a law (signed by President Wilson on Mar 31, 1918) establishing daylight saving time in US.
Time and tide wait for none!

After the World War I, the law was replaced(1919). In World War II, however, National daylight saving time was reestablished by law on a year round basis. National year round daylight saving time was adopted as a fuel-saving measure during the energy crisis of the winter of 1973-74. In late 1974, standard time was reintroduced for the winter period.

In 1987 federal legislation (signed by President Ronald Reagan) fixed the period of daylight saving time in US as the first Sunday (previously last Sunday) in April to the last Sunday in October.

Arizona, Hawaii and sections of Indiana do not use daylight saving time. That is, there is no clock adjustment in these states. Arizona follows Pacific Time in summer and Mountain Time in winter. Similarly Indiana follows Central Time in summer and Eastern Time in winter.

How and when did the four time zones (PT, MT, CT and ET) in US come to observance?

Until late in the nineteenth century, things were in a sorry state of confusion among American railroads: no one agreed on what time it was. Finally on November 18, 1883 the US railroads, in desperation, put the country on a standard time, of course four different standard time zones. And the man behind this is Charles Ferdinand Dowd.

Prior to the adoption of standard time, many communities based their time on the position of the sun over city hall. The result was no end of chaos. Railroad timetables, lacking a nationally synchronized master time system, gave arrival and departure times in terms of the time of each city. A traveler going from say Maine to California had to adjust his watch twenty times to match local variations in timekeeping. Leave that, even a traveler coming in to the city of Buffalo from say Portland (Maine) might find the New York Central clock indicating noon, the Lake Shore clock pointing to 11:25 am, the Buffalo city clock showing 11:40 and his own watch indicating 12:15 pm.


In comes Dowd, a man of meticulous methodology, to the scene. He found timetables a mess of confusion. It took him less than a year to work out a basic formula that would unravel the chaos of time. But it took him thirteen years to convince the apathetic public officials and railroad executives to give his plan a try.

Dowd proposed his idea of hourly divisions. The system called for the establishment of four geographic zones, each fourteen degrees of longitude wide. While each zone would observe a uniform time, the time would vary exactly one hour from zone to zone. The zones were Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific.

In 1869, Dowd’s plan was taken for consideration by the Railroads. But the officials “sat” on it for 13 years. Of course, for them also it was very difficult practically to “impose” new timekeeping all of a sudden. Dowd didn’t give up either. In 1883, the Railroad convention pledged their officers to run all trains “by the standards agreed upon in Dowd’s plan and to adopt same at 12’o clock noon Sunday, November 18”.

Time zones in the US

And how did the historic event was recorded by the Newspapers of that time? Here is what “Harper’s Weekly”, a leading periodical of that time wrote: “On the last day under the old system, when the sun reached the 75th meridian, the clocks began their jangle for the hour of noon and kept it up in a drift across the country for four hours, like incoherent cowbells in a wildwood; But on Monday the 19th, no clock struck for this hour until the sun reached the 75th meridian. Then all the clocks on the continent struck together, those in the Eastern Belt striking 12, the Central Belt 11, in the Mountain Belt 10 and in the Pacific Belt 9.” “Timetables everywhere became intelligent”.

What happened to Dowd? Ironically, it was a railway accident which killed him. The man, who put the Rails on track of time, was derailed in his life by a speedy train at a level crossing near Saratoga, NY. Dowd had to daud (= “run” in Hindi) to GOD, perhaps to set right timekeeping in heaven!



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Trivia and Questions for Indians and Immigrants in America

General Trivia : Introduction //Dollars and Cents // Social Security Number // About Mail and USPS // Story of The Old Glory // Green Card– Why Not Green? // Telephone Area Codes // Convex Mirrors and Caution // Bankruptcy and Chapter 11 // Radio and TV Broadcasting // Consumerism: Trivia on Wal-Mart. // Retail Trivia // Gas Prices– What's 0.9 Cent? // Roads and Interstate Highways // Road Driving Trivia // Finance 101 // Daylight Saving Time // Trivia on Etiquette

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