Knowing the time has not always been as precise of science as it is now. Today, we simply turn on our cell phones, and it automatically tells you the local time.
When railroads first arrived in towns across the U.S., each city set its own time, so time was genuinely local. It was a former train engineer of the Camden & Amboy Railroad who came up with the idea of four time zones across the U.S. On October 18, 1883, trains across the U.S. stopped and manually adjusted their clocks. This not only helped travelers know when their train was arriving or departing, but also brough around much needed safety so that trains could be scheduled to be on the tracks without another train in its way.
Not everyone welcomed the decision to standardize time. Many did not like the idea that God would no longer control the time of day. These people “balked at the notion that the railroad rather than the sun was now the determinant of time.”[i] Nevertheless, the Standard Time Act of 1918 (also known as the Calder Act) officially determined the time across the U.S. and set up Daylight Savings Time to save daylight for people.[ii]
The first thought of standardized time came from the United Kingdom’s Great Western Railway of Britain which invented Greenwich Mean Time to schedule its trains. However, it was not until 1880 that the Definition of Time Act was enacted across all the United Kingdom by royal decree.
Today there are 37 time zones around the world. Russia has the most with 11 different time zones. Although it’s the fourth largest country in the world by landmass, China has only one time zone as it is believed that all of China should follow the time set in Beijing to unify the people.[iii]
[i] Christian Wolmar, The Great Railroad Revolution, 219.