Spring Forward: Golfers, farmers, and DST

Always wanted to know the history of Daylight Savings Time? Peter Gordon helpfully excerpts a WSJ review of a new book by Michael Downing chronicling the history of DST. Here’s a piece:

“From the first,” notes Mr. Downing, “farmers opposed Daylight Saving, which was an urban idea of a good idea, hatched in London and cultivated in the cities of Europe and the northern United States.” New York City-based merchants subsidized the DST campaign, though Broadway suffered when darkness — and curtain rise — was delayed. Indifferent to the arguments of the daylight-mad Chambers of Commerce, cows proved unwilling to adjust their milking habits to the new time. Nevertheless, President Wilson smugly lectured husbandmen that the farmer’s “life and methods are more easily adjusted, I venture to think, than are those of the manufacturer and the merchant.” Illinois Rep. Edward King charged that DST benefited “the pleasure-seekers, the swivel-chair ornaments, and the golf players” by giving them an extra hour of daylight for their decadent recreations. Critics referred to DST as “golf time.” And indeed, Daylight Saving was a tremendous boon to golf, as duffers might stride the links till 9:30 of a summer night. President Wilson was “a genuinely fanatic golfer,” but he hid the niblick under his hairshirt, emphasizing sacrifice rather than pleasure. . . . . Stripped of its bogus efficiency arguments, Daylight Saving Time amounts to an extra hour for shopping and golf. Middle-class consumers are pitted against farmers — and we know who has the numbers. By 2000, writes Mr. Downing, “the number of Americans living on farms was approximately equal to the number of Americans who were permanent residents of golf-course communities.” The bogeymen have trounced the dairymen. Spring ahead, and fore!