On Time National Museum of American History

Marking Time
Synchronizing Time
  24-Hour Society
  Organizing Time
  Splitting Seconds

Expanding Time 1960–Today

We try to get more time out of every day.


24-Hour Society

Open All Night
  Neon sign
  Neon sign, about 1994; from a Kinko's business services store, Washington, D.C.
Gift of Thomas Zimmerman, with assistance from Kinko's, Inc.

The day never ends. People work at all hours around the clock, often on rotating and irregular shifts. They play at odd times. They shop in the wee small hours. They sleep when they can. The phenomenon is more widespread than ever, driven by economic change and new information technologies. But the human animal is diurnal—we are supposed to sleep when it's dark. People with 'round-the-clock schedules risk chronic fatigue, ill health, and accidents.
Rooster Owl
Rooster, 1960s. Convenience stores like 7-Eleven began to flourish in response to the demand for goods and services at early and late hours.
Gift of Southland Corporation
  Owl, 1960s.
Gift of Southland Corporation
Smithsonian National Museum of American History