Daylight Saving Time: The Early Experiences I: Germany

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

Earlier posts (Part I, and Part II) discussed the first implementation of Daylight Saving Time in 1916 by Germany, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, and France.  Not surprisingly, there was also interest in the United States.  In November 1916, Marcus Marks, President of the Borough of Manhattan in New York City, wrote to Secretary of State Robert Lansing on the topic.  Marks noted that earlier in the year he had established a Daylight Saving Committee in his city and there was a call for a convention on the subject to take place there in January 1917.  In preparation for the upcoming gathering, he asked the Secretary of State to communicate with the U.S. embassies in Germany, France, and England to learn how Daylight Saving Time had worked in those countries, noting that newspaper reports indicated that at least in Germany and England governmental committees had been established to study the matter after the first year of experience.

At the bottom of his letter, Marks added a handwritten list of the “Advantages claimed:”

  1. Saving Eye-sight
  2. Saving 1/4 gas bills
  3. Saving strength by working one hour more in cool of morning and one hour less in heat of afternoon
  4. An hour more for exercise & sport in afternoon
  5. Greater efficiency of labor.[i]

Even though Germany, France, and Great Britain were locked in the mortal combat of World War I, the Department of State informed Marks that it would endeavor to obtain the information he wanted from the embassies in those countries.[ii]


In response to the instruction from the Department of State, the U.S. embassy in Berlin sent the following despatch.[iii]  It did not arrive in time for the planned convention.  Upon receipt, however, the Department forwarded the despatch and enclosure to Marks.[iv]

transmits copy of a Note Verbale regarding Daylight Saving Time
Despatch 5253, Jan 29, 1917 p1
translation of Note Verbale, benefits from Daylight Saving Time 1. saving on gas 2. extra hour of light outside
Despatch 5253, Jan 29, 1917 p2
cont'd: agricultural community sees no tangible benefit; opinions of school people are varied
Despatch 5253, Jan 29, 1917 p3
cont'd: large number of German govt is in favor of DST
Despatch 5253, Jan 29, 1917, p4

Next: France


[i] Marcus Marks to Secretary of State Robert Lansing, November 9, 1916, file 800.92511/16, 1910-29 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[ii] Second Assistant Secretary of State Alvey Adee to Marcus Marks, November 18, 1916, file 800.92511/16, 1910-29 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.  For the Department’s instructions, see: Department of State to Embassy Berlin, Instruction 3738, Department of State to Embassy Paris, Instruction 1421, and Department of State to Embassy London, Instruction 4490, all November 18, 1916, file 800.92511/16, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State. 

[iii] U.S. Embassy Berlin to Department of State, Despatch 5253, January 29, 1917, file 800.92511/19, 1910-29 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State. 

[iv] Second Assistant Secretary of State Alvey Adee to Marcus Marks, March 2, 1917, file 800.92511/19, 1910-29 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State. 

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