Did you know that when first introduced, many thought that ZIP Codes were un-American? Some even suspected a communist plot. But on July 1, 1963 the Post Office Department officially implemented the use of the 5 digit ZIP Code. And, with the help of Mr. Zip, they convinced people to use them.
It was particularly difficult to persuade people because that was around the same time that people were already having to learn the 3 digit area codes connected to phone numbers. So, they were all like, “What? Now I have to learn more numbers?” There were also some who felt that they were being dehumanized and turned into a number without regard for an individual’s personal identity. This was Cold War America when the fear of communism was still strong.
Another big problem was that people just didn’t understand how the ZIP Code worked. The Post Office created a nearly 15 minute long film with songs, vignettes and narration to entertain and explain what ZIP Codes were and how they worked. You can find it at the bottom of this webpage: http://postalmuseum.si.edu/systemsatwork/zipcodes.html
People who wanted to use ZIP Codes didn’t know where to find the right one for an address so the Post Office Department then had to find ways of making it easier for them. They came up with “ZIP-A-List Kits” and stuck one in every mailbox. They were basically just 9 postcards attached to each other and fan folded. A person could write the address for which they needed a ZIP Code and mail it to the POD for free. The POD would then send them the ZIP Codes that they requested.
Of course, even some postal employees were not in love at first site with Mr. Zip and ZIP Codes. One Fort Worth, Texas postal employee complained that “No Letter Carrier that I have ever seen looks as absurd as Mr. Zip.” Others were worried that Mr. Zip was going to take away their jobs.
In the end, ZIP Codes did speed up the mail and, as a result, people came to understand and appreciate them. I hope that you will enjoy the video I chose for today’s Mail Music Monday celebration of the 50th Birthday of the ZIP Code. The 4th of July is only a couple of days away so I picked this one with the red, white and blue beginning. Won’t you join the Swingin’ Six and me and sing along?