September 9, 2011

U.S. Time Zones in 1918

 Did you know that Kentucky used to be entirely Central Time? Or that Georgia was split between the Central and Eastern Time Zones?

Time zones were first created by railroad companies to convey to passengers what time trains would arrive and leave a station.  However, each railroad maintained its own time schedule which could be puzzling for travelers.  Train stations often displayed a half dozen clocks just to show all the times for the different trains schedules.  The Standard Time Act of 1918 sought to eliminate the confusion by standardizing the time zones.  Because of the railroad connection, the first time zone lines ran through major rail terminals such as Detroit and Atlanta.

This map is an estimate that I made on google maps using only the points given in the newspaper article below.  Here's a link to the map I made if you care to zoom in.

To compare, here are the present time zone delineations in the United States. Map from

This articles comes from the New York Tribune, printed November 19, 1918:

New York Tribune, Nov 19, 1918
Time Zones in U.S. Change After Jan. 1

Lines Move Westward by Order of Federal Board Fixing New Limits

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18.--New and official boundaries for time zone in the United States, unifying existing lines and moving them slightly westward were announced to-day by the Interstate Commerce Commission, to become effective at 2 a.m., January 1 next.  This order is pursuant to the daylight savings act, which in addition to authorizing advance of the clock during the summer, provided for permanent United States standard time, and required the commission to define the limits of the standard time zones, which previously had been fixed only by custom of cross-continent railroad or by local law.

The line fixed by the commission, separating the Eastern and Central time zones, beginning at the Great Lakes, follows the boundary of Michigan, through Toledo, Fremont, Clyde, Bellevue, Monroeville, Willard, Shelby Junction, Mansfield, Galion, Marion, Columbus, Lancaster, Dundas, and Galipolis, Ohio; Huntington, Kenova and Williason, W. Va; Dunganon, Va.; Bristol, Va. Tenn; Telford, Tenn.; Asheville and Franklin, N.C.; Atlanta, McDonough, Macon, Perry, Americus, Albany and Thoasville, Ga.; the northern boundary of Florida to River Junction and the Apalachicola River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Between Central and Mountain time the lime begins at the Canadian boundary, Portal, N.D., running through Minot and Goodall, N.D., and following the Missouri River to Pierre, S.D., then through Murdo, S.D.; Long Pine, North Platte, McCook and Republican Junction, Neb.; Phillipsburg, Plainville, Ellis, Dodge City and Liberal, Kan.; Waynoka, Clinton and Sayre, Okla.; Sweet Water, Big Springs and San Angelo, Tex., and the 100th  meridian to the Rio Grande River.

Between Mountain and Pacific time zones the line is fixed following the eastern boundary of the Blackfood Indian reservation, in Montana, and the Continental Divide, to Helena, Butte and Dillon, Mont.; Pocatello, Idaho, and the Oregon Short Line to Ogden and Salt Lake City, Utah; thence the Los Angelas & Salt Lake Railroad and the western and southern boundaries of Utah to the 113th meridian, thence to Seligman and Parker, Ariz., and along the Colorado River to the Mexican boundary.

All of Alaska is left within a single time zone, the commission holding that it cannot deal with this matter, nor with the omission of the Hawaiian islands from the terms of the daylight savings act.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When did the 1918 boundaries change? In what year did all of Georgia get put in the Eastern zone? Specifically, did FDR die in Eastern War Time or Central War Time?

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