Tonight, we turn the clocks forward, as Americans in some states have done almost every year since 1918. Since then, the practice of daylight saving time (DST) has become so ingrained into our understanding of the seasons that it's easy to take for granted. For the countries that participate — across Europe, North America, and parts of South America — DST can be a way to mark the passage of time, to relish in the approach of summer. But why exactly do we do it?
When DST was initiated as a national practice during World War I, it was designed to give workers an extra hour of sunlight and was thought to be good for improving public health and happiness, reducing energy consumption, and also for driving business for retailers. But it wasn’t without controversy: The 1918 Daylight Savings Act was signed into law only after vehement lobbying in its favor. Throughout 1917, various groups campaigned for the passage of the bill, many of them, including several municipal chambers of commerce, encouraged by the prospect that an extra hour for recreation would be good for business.
Among the most visible campaigners was the United Cigar Stores Company, once the largest cigar chain in the country. In a national campaign of posters and postcards, some seen below, the company advocated strongly for DST, relying heavily on wartime messaging to drive the point home. (Germany was the first country to institute national DST, in 1916; the U.K. and other European countries followed suit soonafter.) This is what that campaign looked like, 100 years ago.