[PW] Historical time zones in the US

Lonn Taylor taylorw at fortdavis.net
Thu Aug 18 10:09:07 PDT 2016

In the summer of 1946 my parents and I were driving from Washington, DC to Fort Worth, Texas and we stopped in Bristol for lunch. We went into a restaurant and were told rather abruptly that "dinner ain't ready yet" because we had crossed into Tennessee and it was only 11:00 AM and not noon as my
father's watch showed. I remember this vividly even though I was only six because it was my first awareness of time zones.

We crossed back to the Virginia side of the line and had a delicious lunch of country ham, cornbread, and butter beans.

Lonn Taylor
Fort Davis, Texas

Sent from my iPhone

On Aug 18, 2016, at 11:42 AM, Bristol Library <bplref at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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>
> wrote:
>> 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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> -- 
> Bristol Public Library
> Bristol, VA/TN
> See what we're reading now:
> http://bristol-library-bookblog.blogspot.com/
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