General Time Convention
The growth of the railroad systems centering in Chicago has been so rapid during the period since the fire of 1871, that the corporations, while enlarging their terminal facilities and extending the length of their side tracks, still complain of a lack of adequate accommodations in the city.
Previously, towns & municipalities set their clocks according to the solar noon, which resulted in a multitude of “local” times scattered throughout each state. As train travel became faster and travel times shortened, accurate timekeeping became more relevant. The time zone system was developed by William F. Allen, secretary of the General Time Convention, an organization of American railroads concerned with coordinating schedules and operating standards which eventually evolved into the American Railway Association.
In 1883 the US railroads called a General Time Convention to develop a more coordinated and orderly system. In October of 1883 delegates met at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Chicago and on 11 October 1883 adopted the Standard Time System which went into effect on 18 November 1883. Although the US Congress did not officially recognize the Standard Time System until 19 March 1918 when it passed the Standard Time Act, cities, states, and the federal government began using the system soon after the railroad implemented it.
Railroad time is to the time of the future. The Sun is no longer to boss the job. People—all 55,000,000 of them—must eat, sleep and work as well as travel by railroad time. It is a revolt, a rebellion. The sun will be requested to rise and set by railroad time. The planets must, in the future, make their circuits by such timetables as railroad magnates arrange. People will have to marry by railroad time, and die by railroad time. Ministers will be required to preach by railroad time – banks will open and close by railroad time – in fact, the Railroad Convention has taken charge of the time business, and the people may as well set about adjusting their affairs in accordance with its decree. … We presume the sun, moon and stars will make an attempt to ignore the orders of the Railroad Convention, but they, too, will have to give in at last.
— Indianapolis Sentinel, 21 November 1883
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company.
Rand McNally and Company.