Almost Yesterday: Zip Codes Implemented

Oct 8, 2019

It seems like almost yesterday that the US postal system implemented a zone improvement plan for distribution of the United States mail.  World War II had dramatically increased the volume of mail and in 1943 a series of basic postal zones were created.

But by the 1960’s the character and volume of U.S. mail dramatically changed.  There was a virtual explosion of business mail.  By 1963 business transactions made up 80%of the total volume.  Computers created a massive centralization of business accounts and suddenly it seemed book clubs, record clubs, utility bills, credit card transactions, department store billings, social security checks, and billions of magazines and catalogs made a faster more efficient system essential.

In June of 1962 the Postal Advisory Board presented a series of recommendation which were outlined on April 30, 1963 by Postmaster General John Gonouski.  These included the implementation of a nation wide system of zip codes scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 1963.

Every house and every address in the nation received an assigned five-digit number.  The first digit represented a group of states, the next two digits a regional center, and the last two digits represented an area of a city or a village or town outside of a city.

Zip codes are thus unique for every one in the country.  Some are quite famous: General Electric’s 12345 in Schenectady, New York; Young America, Minnesota’s 55555; Harvard University’s 02138; and surely that of Beverly Hills, California 90210.  There are even zip codes for Smokey the Bear, 20252, and Santa Claus, 47579.  But few zip codes seem more historical and memorable than that of Cape Girardeau Missouri, 63701.

The number helps us remember that it was on July 01, 1963 when the system went into effect: 63, 7, 01.  It seems like almost yesterday.