James Rada Jr., Columnist
The United States began its move toward daylight-saving time during World War I. Following in the footsteps of Germany and Europe, the U.S. passed the Standard Time Act in March 1916.
The country abandoned daylight-saving time nationwide after the war, leaving the decision up to local jurisdictions.
Allegany County and its towns and cities tackled the issue in 1922. The municipal governments sought input from citizen organizations and citizens on whether or not to adopt daylight-saving time.
The Cumberland Rotary Club was an early supporter of the move. The membership voted to support the move and ask the Cumberland mayor and City Council to support it as well.
Baltimore had already adopted daylight-saving time, though Washington had not.
The Rotary Club was one of the few excited proponents, though.
The Cumberland Times noted, “The daylight saving plan will not be observed in this city or elsewhere in the county, according to present indications.”
The Cumberland Chamber of Commerce, another supporter of daylight-saving time, abandoned its efforts to gain public support for the issue in early May when a ballot among business owners came out 2-1 against switching to daylight-saving time.
“It was pointed out by an employer, opposed to the measure, that those who wish to begin work and cease work earlier may do so on their own initiative and that the plans of others should not be upset by the wishes of a comparative few,” the Cumberland Times reported.
Citizens also weighed in on the issue. “For heaven’s sake, don’t be too hasty about this matter. … Do you realize the extra work it would be to the wife and mother, should the clocks be turned forward one hour? They would be serving breakfast to the family all the fore-noon. During the hot summer months you can’t get any rest until after midnight, owing to the heat. When four or four-thirty comes, in the morning, real time, and the best time to rest, the laboring boy or girl, man or woman, would have to hit the floor, sleep or no sleep. It would mean several thousand dollars to the people for the extra, light and fuel,” one person who opposed the switch wrote to the Cumberland Times.
Cumberland chose not to adopt daylight-saving time, but 20 years later, city officials had no choice in the matter. President Franklin Roosevelt adopted “War Time” in February 1942, which was year-round daylight-saving time. When the war ended, state and local governments began adopting summer daylight-saving time in 1946. This brought the issue to a head once again in Allegany County. It made for very confusing timekeeping when two neighboring cities could be an hour apart. This happened when different towns adopted different start and stop times for daylight-saving time.
The issue finally went to a referendum in Cumberland’s municipal elections in 1952. The city voted to follow daylight-saving time from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in September.
Even after the county municipalities adopted daylight-saving time, there were still differences between cities in how long it lasted, so Allegany County started adopting the same calendar for daylight-saving time as New York, Baltimore and Washington. By 1957, the city and county voted to set a uniform length for daylight-saving time that matched the surrounding jurisdictions.
The federal government finally made daylight saving-time uniform for everyone in 1966.