There have been situations where politicians have thought themselves capable of legislating against nature itself, such as the time Indiana considered changing the value of pi, or the Norwegian town where it is illegal to die. There have also been those instances where political antics have pretended that time had stopped, such as the day that Illinois’ Speaker of the House pulled the plug on the clock to stay within the deadline to keep the Chicago White Sox from leaving. When those two scenarios come together, and politicians try to mess with the clock while they legislate about time, it has all the makings of a Marx Brothers scene of mayhem.
The whole concept of Daylight Savings Time has been a source of contention ever since Benjamin Franklin suggested it. He meant it to be a joke, but even he could not have anticipated the hilarity that would ensue 165 years later when the Indiana House of Representatives considered making his joke a reality.
It was 1949. States had been slow to embrace Daylight Savings Time. The Indiana Senate quietly considered the matter and voted to keep the state on Central Standard Time, prohibiting the use of Daylight Savings Time within its borders.
The measure reached the House for adoption, and that’s when mayhem broke out. The representation in the Senate generally favored the rural farming communities, which typically opposed changing the clocks twice a year. The House, on the other hand, was geared more toward the urban centers, and they tended to support the measure.
The faction that favored Daylight Savings Time attempted a filibuster, hoping to keep the debate alive until midnight, when, by law, the legislature was required to adjourn. Representative Herbert Copeland (R-Madison), decided to take time into his own hands. Leaning over the gallery railing, Copeland forcibly moved the hands of the official House clock to 9:00 p.m. Whatever he hoped to gain in the process is unknown. What is clear, however, is that he broke the clock in the process.
By law, the official time for the House of Representatives is that which is shown on the clock. With its hands stuck at 9:00, the debate raged on well past the midnight hour.
As arguments went back and forth about whether changing the clock is considered “unnatural” and “unhealthy for cows” time continued to march on outside the chambers, while inside, everyone was trapped in a timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly, bubble of 9:00-ishness. (Since we made a Doctor Who reference there, here’s a link to some more stuff about the time lord from Gallifrey.)
Finally, after nothing more could be said, the filibuster died, and the vote was taken on the legislation. It passed, thus keeping Indiana out of Daylight Savings Time for another 21 years. The legislature adjourned, having thus determined that it was inappropriate to mess around with time. The official time of adjournment was 9:00 p.m. The legislators then walked outside the House chamber, where it was 3:30 a.m. of the following day.
Read more fun facts about politics.
Read more fun facts about time.