Today was the day in 1963 that the U.S. Postal Service adopted what are officially called Zone Improvement Plan codes, better known as ZIP codes.


The Postal Service had actually started using one and two digit codes to help sort mail as early as the 1940s.

But the amount of mail going around the country had doubled from that time to the 1960s.

The best way to get sorting machines to distinguish between a letter headed to Springfield, Vermont instead of Springfield, Missouri was to give each place its own five-digit code.

The first few digits told USPS to which state the mail was going, while the last numbers narrowed it down to town, city or neighborhood.

To get people on board with using ZIP codes, the Postal Service launched a public awareness campaign with its own mascot, Mr. Zip, and some help from celebrities.

One TV spot featured none other than Broadway legend Ethel Merman!

The Merm sang a jingle to the tune of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” that went like this: “welcome the ZIP code, learn it today, send your mail out the five-digit way.”

It must’ve worked, because by 1969, just a few years after ZIP codes began, a poll found 83 percent of Americans were using them in their mail.


Happy Canada Day to our Canadian listeners.

Last fall a cyclist in Ontario, Mason Zeinali, did a very Canadian thing: he took a bike ride of 101 kilometers through downtown Toronto.

If you check out the ride on the tracking site Strava, it’s the shape of a giant moose.

The ZIP Code Turns 50 (TIME)

Ethel Merman (National Postal Museum)

Toronto cyclist rides 101km to make the most Canadian Strava art (Cycling Magazine)

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Photo by Walter Albertin, derivative work: PawełMM via Wikicommons