[PW] Historical time zones in the US

Bristol Library bplref at gmail.com
Thu Aug 18 09:42:04 PDT 2016

Hi, John,
Would you mind if I quoted your letter to the patron to give some context?
I have found some newspaper notices of train schedules departing Bristol
with the notation that some are using "Washington Time" while others use
"Knoxville Time" but without the explanation you give, that won't mean
much.  Thank you again for the information!  I'm still going through the
paper to see if I can find any articles about the Calder Act.

Regards, Jeanne

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
> _______________________________________________
> Project Wombat - Project-Wombat-Open
> list at project-wombat.org
> http://www.project-wombat.org/

Bristol Public Library
Bristol, VA/TN

See what we're reading now:

More information about the Project-wombat mailing list