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Trains, Wars and Energy Shortages Put Daylight Saving on the Clock

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Do you struggle adjusting to the time change?

Springing forward and falling back doesn’t come without controversy. For many years, Michiganders went back and forth about whether they wanted to adopt daylight saving time permanently.

The beginning of ‘time’

In the late 1800s, time became standardized across the country to regulate railroad travel times. Four time zones were created, and Michigan was set to function in the Central Time Zone.


In 1918, daylight savings was introduced. The Standard Act of Time, brought forward by the Interstate Commerce Commission, also created a fifth time zone. The intention was to save electricity during the first World War. In August 1919, the war ended and “war time” was revoked.

In the 1920s, Detroit petitioned to be included in the Eastern Time Zone, and it was approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission.

The topic of daylight saving stayed on the minds of many Americans during this time, with much debate taking place over it.

In April 1922, residents of Charlevoix voted against daylight saving time. Of the voters, 159 were for it, 256 against.


In 1936, the rest of the lower peninsula joined Detroit in Eastern Time. The Upper Peninsula remained on Central Time.

Northern Michigan joins the debate

In 1942, Emmet County was back debating about the time change. The U.S. federal government decided to push the matter again as a war-time effort in hopes of saving money and increasing production. Daylight saving was enacted nationwide.

“Only by an act of the state legislature can Michigan time remain as it is. At the present time there is no indication that the legislature will take such action. The new Daylight Savings act, intended to save electricity and step up war materials production, requires that clocks all over the country be set ahead one hour. President Roosevelt has signed the bill and the law becomes effective 20 days after the signing,” according the a January 1942 article from the Emmet County Graphic.

“The change came as a result of several years experience with Summer Daylight Savings time, following World War I. Although some agricultural districts objected to tampering with the clocks, the folks in most cities liked the extra hour of daylight in the evening and the legislature listened to the demand for adoption of ‘fast’ time. Detroit and a small portion of the Thumb section fell within the Eastern zone, but all the rest of the state was officially on Central time, and all legal matters of the state were so based,” reads the Emmet County Graphic.


If the legislature choose not to act, the state now would function two hours ahead of its original Central Time preference. Or they had the option to move the entire state back to Central Time to avoid having to move clocks forward at all.

“Farmers are naturally, the chief conscientious objectors to ‘fast’ time. They are early risers normally and start their work at break of day while the dew is still heavy. The extra hour of daylight in the evening only tends to lengthen their day’s work. Office workers and store employees find the long evenings fine for relaxation, recreation, fishing, picnics and golfing after their days work is over. But mothers find it hard to feed their young and put them to bed by daylight,” the Emmet County Graphic wrote.

In the end, the state decided to enact “war time” for the Upper Peninsula, but not the lower. This caused the entire state to once again function using Central Time. “War time” ended in 1943.

Michigan seeks resolve in statewide elections

The Uniform Time Act of 1966, sought to permanently recognize daylight saving time as a federal law. In Michigan, Act No. 6, Public Acts of 1967, declared that “Eastern standard time . . . is the legal time throughout the state” and the state was exempt from P.L. 89-387. Michigan’s Act No. 6 was submitted to the voters for their approval or rejection at the November 1968 election. It passed, meaning no daylight savings for Michigan.


In 1972, the state voted again, and Act No. 6 was repealed. Michigan finally agreed to adopt time change.

“Across the state, the only proposal that was passing was the Daylight Savings Time proposal. On the time question, county favored it 3,868 to 3,807,” the Harbor Light Reported on Nov. 2, 1972.