Jenni Parrish


Time may have become a television celebrity this season, but telling time is something taken for granted by most people alive in 2002. Telling time however, has not always been as easy, straightforward, and mechanical, as it is today. By the late nineteenth century, there was already sufficient conflict over how to tell time to force Americans to litigate the subject. The courts wrestled with this dilemma while legislatures reluctantly moved toward establishing a uniform method of telling time. Congress did not act until 1918.6 Why did it take so long to legally establish standard time in the United States? This article will describe just how incredibly complex time determination has been in human history. Focusing on the United States, 1870-1920, two theories will be offered as to why American courts in at least sixteen cases were left to struggle with inconsistent methods of telling time and why Congress took so long to step into the fray and finally resolve the issue.