[PW] Historical time zones in the US

Bristol Library bplref at gmail.com
Wed Aug 17 19:49:05 PDT 2016

Thanks, John!  I'll check that date when I go into work tomorrow!  A local
railroad buff mentioned that the railways played fast and loose with times
that suited them and it caused a great deal of confusion.


On Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 8:31 PM, John Sleasman <johnsleasman at gmail.com>

> I have no expertise (other than knowing its complex) in the state
> assignment of different counties to the next time zone for the convenience
> of residents, or exemption from DST, but as a railroad buff, let me add an
> additional complication.
> Prior to the Standard Time Act of 1918, there were no official government
> boundaries for time zones. Standard time and zones were mostly set by
> railroads in 1883 and after, often at junction points where transfers were
> made from one company to another, or crews were changed. Cities might not
> agree with the railroad, and set their clocks differently, but mostly did,
> as people missed trains if they weren't following the same time as the
> depot. If you look at that 1913 map, you'll find that there are often lines
> - actually, more varied than shows at that scale - that bounce back and
> forth around the states, with the central zone reaching the Atlantic in
> Georgia, and the pacific zone reaching into Texas, mostly for the
> convenience of the Southern and Southern Pacific railroads to simplify
> their operations.
> I have an old Official Guide of the Railways that shows the Southern
> having three lines out of a common station (with the N&W) at Bristol. The
> line going west to Knoxville and Chattanooga operates on central zone time,
> as expected. The line west to St. Charles VA also operates on central time.
> But the line east to Mountain City TN operates on eastern zone. Hard to
> tell without exhaustive research, but I might hazard a rough guess that was
> indicative of the surrounding territory, and that Bristol VA could have
> operated on eastern time and Bristol TN on central in that era. They would
> be far from the only border pair that did so. Weirder things happened,
> which was one of the reasons that in additional to establishing DST, the
> 1918 act set up standard boundaries and gave control over zones to the
> government(s).
> The Standard Time Act (Calder Act) was signed by President Wilson on March
> 19,1918, setting up both the zones and DST. You might check local sources
> around that date to see if they note any comments about standardization
> and/or boundary changes. Mandatory observance of DST only lasted one year,
> that provision being repealed after the end of WWI.
> On 08/17/2016 6:25 PM, Bristol Library wrote:
>> I have a patron who wants to know if our twin cities were ever on
>> different
>> times. The state line goes down the center of town, half in Tennessee and
>> half in Virginia.  My first thought was perhaps there was a time when one
>> side didn't observe DST, but so far I haven't found that to be the case,
>> though admittedly this is difficult to ascertain.  I'm going through
>> microfilmed newspapers but between 1945 and 1967, states could decide when
>> they wanted DST to begin and end, providing they wanted to change at all.
>> However, in poking around I found an image of a 1913 time zone map for the
>> U.S. which would seem to show Virginia in one time zone and Tennessee in
>> another.  Does anyone known when the next time zones were set?  Or exactly
>> when this time zone might have been set? My thought is that there might be
>> an article in a local paper at the time this took place, commenting on the
>> event.
>> TIA for any help,
>> Jeanne
>> who is really, really tired of trying to read old microfilm
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