On the Clock: A (Brief) History of Time
In 1883, the a coalition of railroad officials carved the continental U.S. into five time zones, introducing Americans to the idea of “standard time.” Twenty five years later, the revolutionary idea was codified into law, with the 1918 Standard Time Act.
In this episode, we’ll look at the changing ways Americans have experienced the 24-hour day — from pre-industrial times right on up through today’s era of time-shifted media. We’ll explore the impact of those powerful Gilded Age railroads, and look the role of economic forces in shaping America’s relationship with the clock. We’ll also explore how people have experienced the rhythm of night and day — and why the advent of electric lighting changed that rhythm forever. Finally, is unlimited time always a good thing? We take a loving look at basketball’s shot clock.
- Roger Ekirch, Virginia Tech, on 19th century Americans’ changing relationship with night
- Michael O’Malley, George Mason University, on how Gilded Age railroad officials standardized time across the country
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