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1930s & Earlier / Invention of Standard Time
It seems hard to believe, but not until the 1880s did North America have recognized standard time zones. Instead, each individual city generally set its own time according to the position of the sun. This system didn't cause much trouble until the railroad age blossomed--then chaos ensued. Because the clocks in cities even a few miles apart routinely varied, running a railroad became a nightmare. (For example, in Canada, Montreal was 22 minutes ahead of Toronto because it is 500 kilometres further to the northeast.) In 1879, a Scottish-born Canadian railway man, Sandford Fleming (pictured here), actively proposed time zones to simplify North American railroad schedules. These were adopted in 1883. Almost immediately, the various cities and states followed the railroaders' lead. Soon the rest of world followed too. There are now 24 basic time zones in the world, each encompassing approximately 15 degrees longitude.