In the Feb. 2, 1889 issue of the Tombstone Daily Prospector, the Bisbee mining company started running its schedule for its shiny new railroad. The ad was approved by Ben Williams, superintendent of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Co. The ad was intended to run indefinitely: The “tf” in the lower left is newspaper-speak for “till forbid,” and means the ad will run till cancelled.
An interesting note on the ad is that the train would be running on “railroad time.” It’s hard to fathom today, but the concept of time zones was brand new in 1889.
Prior to the creating of time zones, every state, town or rural area would set its own time. And it didn’t really matter. With the advent of railroads, which linked all these areas and needed a schedule that everyone understood, that had to change. In 1853, for example, two trains in New England collided, killing 14 passengers, because the trains were running on different times.
But it wouldn’t be until 1883 (at noon on Nov. 18), just a few years before the railroad arrived in Bisbee, that most everyone started using this standard time (and now you know why it’s called “standard” time), with four time zones.
Most of England had adopted a standard time by 1855 and that’s why they get to be the central point of all time, GMT or Greenwich Mean Time. Technically, standard time in Britain wasn’t made official until 1880, but then again, the U.S. Congress didn’t act on the matter until 1918.
Standard time was new enough in Bisbee in 1889, that a railway line had to be specific about its times so everyone would understand.
You’ll be seeing clusters of articles on this blog — the next will be on railroads as well — because I’m filling in gaps in my upcoming book, “A Brief History of Bisbee,” which I hope to have available by the July 4 weekend.