It’s time to set our clocks again. Growing up in Chicago where vernacular speech is rife with curious liberty taking, I went my merry way with the understanding this bi-annual clock reset was called Daylight Savings Time. Many many years ago, while writing The History of lamps and Lighting in America for a living history project I was working on, I discovered I’d had the name wrong for decades. The official spelling is actually Daylight Saving Time, not Savings Time. Wow, don’t you just hate feeling dumb? In this case Saving is a participle because it modifies Time and informs us of its nature — the activity of saving daylight.
Who started all this stuff that’s had Chicagoans saying the name wrong for 180 years and causing this city-dweller turned country émigré to feel like a dummy? Ben Franklin.
While visiting Paris in 1784, Ben wrote an essay entitled An Economical Project — just one of many of his discourses on thrift. Remember, he’s the penny saved is a penny earned guy. In this essay he was talking about conserving candles by setting the clocks in favor of natural daylight. It all came about after an experience he had one particular morning. You see, most Parisians of his acquaintance didn’t rise before noon. They were hard partyers who started their soirees late and went to bed just before dawn.
Apparently, one such morning he woke hours ahead of time and for a moment was confused by the light of pre-dawn in his room. Yes this is an actual account. I guess gentlemen who normally rise at noon might be thrown off by the sunrise. Here’s the story in his words:
“I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was but six o clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, I looked into the almanac, where I found it to be the hour given for his rising on that day. I looked forward too, and found he was to rise still earlier every day towards the end of June; and that no time during the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o clock. Your readers, who with me have never seen any sign of sunshine before noon, and seldom regard the astronomical part of the almanac, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his rising so early; and especially when I assure them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this.”
Ever the master of wit, Franklin claimed that a noted philosopher assured him that he was mistaken. It was well known that there could be no light abroad at that hour. “His windows had not let the light in, but being open, had let the darkness out.” he later said, “This event has given rise in my mind to several serious and important reflections.”
Had he slept until noon, he would have missed six hours of daylight. And, as usual, he’d live six hours the following night by candlelight. It dawned on him just how expensive this lifestyle was. Ever frugal, he began calculating the cost of 100,000 Parisian families burning a pound of candles every two hours for an average of seven hours each evening between dusk and the late hour Parisians finally turned in. This is what he found:
“183 nights between 20 March and 20 September times 7 hours per night of candle usage equals 1,281 hours for a half year of candle usage. Multiplying by 100,000 families gives 128,100,000 hours by candlelight. Each candle requires half a pound of tallow and wax, thus a total of 64,050,000 pounds. At a price of thirty sols per pounds of tallow and wax (two hundred sols make one livre tournois), the total sum comes to 96,075,000 livre tournois. An immense sum that the city of Paris might save every year
Ben’s revelation returned with him to America and was written with witty humor in Poor Richard’s Almanac. And people listened. Even the Parisian lamp makers got on board. Soon everyone was talking about this novel idea.
In his autobiography, Franklin wrote of this thrifty concept in his travels to England:
“For in walking thro’ the Strand and Fleet Street one morning at seven o clock, I observed there was not one shop open tho it had been daylight and the sun up above. “three hours — the inhabitants of London choosing voluntarily to live much by candlelight and sleep by sunshine, and yet often complaining a little absurdly of the duty on candles and the high price of tallow.”
With rare exception, we’ve been following this idea since Benjamin Franklin thought it up. I too think it’s a good idea to limit the use of artificial light. If for no other reason than to conserve energy and protect the environment. There are people intentionally limiting their use of artificial light. I have a friend who does this and it appeals to me. Unfortunately, my husband is a lamp person. If there’s a light bulb anywhere, he’ll turn it on.
Here’s one man who tried a no electricity experiment for a month.
As a writer who practically showers with my laptop, I’d find this very hard to do. On the other hand, I cut myself loose after dinner. It would be very easy to live by candlelight in the evenings.
“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”
~ Jalaluddin Rumi
Saturday and Sunday happenings on the other blogs
My Sexy Saturday & Sexy Snippets
The Seductive Studs & Sirens and Weekend Writing Warriors
I’m in the month-long Romance Reviews Year-End Splash Party.
Set the Stage in Six (come share you own scene set-up on Sunday!)
http://exquisitequills.blogspot.com/Then return mid-week for First Kiss Wednesday and share your best kisses.
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an interview of Author Jordan K. Rose
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