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History's Happenings for November 18

Antarctica Discovered

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
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U.S. Railroads Adopt Standard Time

The concept of Standard Time was put into practice in America this day in 1883, pursuant to a proposal by one Cleveland Abbe, an American meteorologist. At the time, American railroads wrestled with a system of over 50 time zones in an environment where every locality set its watch by the rising and setting sun. Similar systems had been devised in Europe and elsewhere for the same reasons.

An international agreement the following year established Greenwich, England, near London, as the standard for worldwide time, and divided the world into 24 1-hour time zones spanning 15 of longitude each. The 0 line of longitude, or Prime Meridian, was defined as passing through the old Greenwich Observatory.

Standard Time advances -- becomes later -- by one hour for each zone as one travels from west to east, commensurate with the rotation of the Earth. In the central Pacific, the International Date Line marks the point at which one crosses back into the previous day, twenty-three hours earlier. The closest thing we have today to time travel.

The continental U.S. consists of four time zones -- Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific -- as originally proposed by Abbe, though the boundaries of the zones have been moved around a bit to follow natural features and avoid dividing population centers. American time zones are managed by the Department of Transportation.

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) continues to be the standard reference for time used by organizations communicating across many time zones, including the military.

If you visit London, you can take a short boat ride down the Thames to the village of Greenwich and, at the Observatory, stand astride the brass strip that is the Prime Meridian -- the line of 0 longitude that is the anchor for the world's time.

U.S., Panama Sign Canal Treaty

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First Disney Cartoon Appears

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Catholics Give Up Meatless Fridays

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