Think about the Gregorian calendar: 52 weeks divided unevenly into 12 months, each with an irregular number of days. The problem is clear: 52 divided by 12 is 4.33—not the most convenient math for divvying things up.
But what if there was an easier way? Say, a thirteenth month? That math is a lot simpler: 52 divided by 13 is four. If we added an extra month, each month would be exactly the same: four weeks, or 28 days.
In fact, the idea of an International Fixed Calendar has been proposed before and gained quite a following in the late 1920s, when Moses B. Cotsworth, a North Eastern Railway advisor, began shopping it around to fellow businessmen, reports City Lab. Allow this editorial from the September 1927 issue of The Outlook magazine to explain:
“A month is a wholly irrational division of time. It has no relation to anything in astronomy, or human experience. It is an inaccurate and varying measure of time that is a constant annoyance in business and a misleading unit in science. It has no religious significance. A month is nothing but just a bad habit.”
There’s no question that a 13-month calendar would be easier to keep track of than the 12-month one the editorial bemoans. Under the International Fixed Calendar plan, each year would have exactly 52 weeks split evenly into 13 months of four weeks and 28 days. Those days would be easier to manage as well: Each number date would fall on the same day of the week each month (the 20th, for example, would always fall on a Friday). Holidays, too, would be easier to remember, and moveable ones, such as Labor Day, would have fixed dates. It’s even good for business. Since each month would contain the same number of business days, month-over-month statistical comparisons would be more accurate.
So what were the drawbacks? Well, for one, every month would have a Friday the 13th (this is why Friday the 13th is no good for Americans), and birthdays would fall on the same day of the week each year (meaning approximately one-in-seven people would be stuck with a Monday birthday forever!). From a business perspective, 13 months are difficult to split into quarters. The biggest hurdle, however, might have been that Americans simply don’t like change.
Alas, just as Cotsworth and friends were gaining momentum for their plan, World War II broke out in Europe. Matters of life and death were officially more important than establishing uniform days of the week.
But should the day come when the world finally makes the change, as the editors of Outlook were confident it would, we might look back on our current calendar with confusion.
“Someday, a month will have as definite a meaning as an hour, a day, or a year,” they write. “When that time comes people will look back upon the twelve-month year as a time of incredible inertia.”