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The ZIP Code Turns 50 |

Stashed in: History of Tech!, America!, Advertising, Marketing, Psychology

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Anyone have more links to share on the history of Mr. Zip? :)

On July 1, 1963, on the recommendation of an internal advisory board, the post office introduced the Zone Improvement Plan Code, which divided the entire country into coded delivery areas. The first two or three numbers told carriers to which states mail was being sent. More populous regions like New York were given five digit numbers starting with 10-14, for example, whereas less populous areas like Montana received five-digit numbers. These new ZIP codes helped the post office better pinpoint where mail was headed while allowing it to expand machine-based sorting systems that could quickly read digits. But many Americans were reluctant to adopt the new system.

“People were concerned they were being turned into numbers,” says Jennifer Lynch, a U.S. Postal Service historian. “They thought it was depersonalizing them.”

To get people on board, the post office began an extensive marketing campaign centered around Mr. ZIP, a friendly looking cartoon mail carrier. A folk group called The Swingin’ Six sang about ZIP Code usage in a lengthy public service announcement video. “Put ZIP in your mail” ran in magazines across the country, including TIME, while a series of short TV ads showed postal workers drowning in a sea of letters and used slogans like “Only you can put ZIP in your postal system.”

Americans resisted ZIP codes?! Is there anything Americans WON'T resist???

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