From 'God's Time' to Looming Legislation: Indiana's Bumpy Ride With Time Zones and Daylight-Saving Time
The concept of time has been a part of human civilization for centuries. But the history of time in Indiana is a lot more complicated than one might think. From disagreements over time zone legislation to confusion over daylight-saving time, Indiana has had a tumultuous relationship with time. In this article, we will explore the key moments that have shaped the history of time in Indiana.
I. 1883: The sun decides the time
Before the invention of railroads, time was a simple concept. "Noon" was when the sun was highest in the sky, and most towns had a prominent clock on the town hall or a church. However, with the advent of railroads, travelers changing trains found that each railroad set its clocks differently, and those times did not match the town clocks. In 1883, the major railroads agreed to coordinate their clocks and began operating on "standard time," with four "time zones" established across the nation. For Indiana, this meant that noon arrived at 12:16 p.m. according to the railroads, but some local communities still preferred "God's time."
II. 1917-19: Welcome daylight-saving time
Congress passed the Standard Time Act, adopting similar time zones, and giving authority over the boundaries to the Interstate Commerce Commission. The law also introduced "daylight-saving time," a concept first promoted by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 but not put into widespread practice until European countries adopted it during World War I to conserve fuel used for lighting. Congress repealed daylight saving time in 1919, but some communities continued to follow it.
III. 1942-45: Wavering on daylight-saving time
During World War II, the federal government again invoked daylight-saving time for conservation purposes, but after the war, the mandate was lifted.
IV. 1949: An Indiana time zone bill causes mayhem
By the late 1940s, the use of daylight-saving time, known as fast time, became popular in cities. Indiana is officially in the Central time zone, but some communities chose to follow fast time year-round, aligning themselves essentially with the Eastern time zone. In 1949, the Indiana Senate quietly passed a bill that would keep the state on Central time and outlaw daylight-saving time. When the bill reached the House, there was mayhem on the floor as legislators representing cities, which generally favored fast time, battled legislators from agricultural areas, where changing the clock at all was considered "unnatural" and "unhealthy for cows." Lacking enough votes, the city faction tried to filibuster until time ran out on the session at midnight. Rural champion Rep. Herbert Copeland, R-Madison, leaned over the gallery railing and forced the official clock back to 9 p.m., breaking it in the process. The clock stuck on 9 as the debate raged on into the night, but in the end, it didn't matter which side won.
V. 1956: Central and Eastern go head to head
A nonbinding, statewide referendum was conducted in 1956, asking general election voters their preference on Eastern vs. Central time and whether to use daylight-saving time in the summer months. A slim majority favored Central time with no jump to daylight-saving time, but it was clear that Hoosiers were evenly divided on both questions. The only clear consensus that emerged was that most people opposed "double-fast time," which would result from being on Eastern Standard Time and switching to Eastern Daylight Time in the summer.
VI. 1957: Central time wins, DST optional
The General Assembly voted to make Central time the official time of the state but permitted any community to switch to daylight-saving time during the summer. However, the law forbade communities from remaining on fast time during the winter months, which many communities were in the habit of doing. Governor Harold Handley vowed to enforce the law by withdrawing state aid from communities that tried to ignore it, but legal challenges soon poked holes in the new law's enforcement provisions, and Handley was forced to back down.
VII. 1961: 1957 law repealed
The General Assembly repealed the unpopular 1957 law but did not attempt to replace it, deferring instead to a new Interstate Commerce Commission ruling moving the boundary between the Eastern and Central time zones from the Indiana-Ohio state line to the center of the state.
VIII. 1966-67: Uniform DST
Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, making daylight-saving time uniform throughout the country but permitting states to exempt themselves, provided the whole state is exempt. Congress also shifted federal authority over time zones to the Department of Transportation.
IX. 1968-72: Time is different throughout Indiana
The Department of Transportation proposed a compromise in which most of Indiana would be on Eastern Standard Time year-round, while the Gary and Evansville areas would remain on Central Time and follow daylight time in the summer. The department asked Congress to amend the Uniform Time Act to permit a state to exempt some counties from daylight time while others followed it. In 1969, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation enacting the proposed model, pending congressional approval. However, Governor Edgar Whitcomb vetoed it, citing conflicts with surrounding states. The 1971 General Assembly voted to override Whitcomb's veto, and Congress approved the federal amendment, which was signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972.
X. 2005: Mitch Daniels gets DST in all of Indiana
For more than 30 years, the system established in 1972 remained largely unchanged. But in 2005, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels made DST part of his economic plan, arguing that "Indiana Time" was bad for the state's economy because businesses outside of the state couldn't keep track of what time it was in Indiana. House Speaker Brian Bosma and other key legislative leaders also backed the change, but many lawmakers remained opposed, particularly those from counties close to the Central Time border. A DST bill sponsored by Rep. Gerald Torr, R-Carmel, lurched along through the 2005 legislative session despite being voted down twice by the House. On April 28, 2005, with two days left in the session, the bill came up for a final vote. As the speaker held the vote open, two legislators changed their minds and the measure passed.
The history of time in Indiana has been a contentious issue over the years. As we can see from the key moments outlined in this article, there have been debates over time zone legislation, daylight-saving time, and uniformity of time across the state. But despite the disagreements, Indiana has managed to establish a workable system that satisfies the majority of its citizens.
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