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Happy Birthday, Time Zones!

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On this day in 1883, the Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones were introduced in the United States. This innovation streamlined more than 300 local times into 4 standardized time zones. This change helped trains run on time and helped bring people together.

Time zones, a novel concept in the 1800s, were created by railroad officials who convened meetings in 1883 to deal with a major headache. It was becoming impossible to know what time it was.

The underlying cause of confusion was simply that the United States had no time standard. Each town or city would keep its own solar time, setting clocks so noon was when the sun was directly overhead.

That made perfect sense for anyone who never left town.

But it became complicated for travelers. Noon in Boston would be a few minutes before noon in New York City. And Philadelphians experienced noon a few minutes after New Yorkers did. And on and on, across the nation.

For railroads, which needed reliable timetables, this created a huge problem.

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