Mr. Zip and the ZIP Code Promotional Campaign

ZIP Code and Mr. Zip in the News: What the Media Had to Say

Numerous newspapers across the country featured articles on ZIP Code throughout the Post Office Department’s promotional campaign. Many of the articles appeared in papers in 1963, the year ZIP Codes were introduced. These articles give further insight into early opinions of ZIP Code. On July 28, 1963, just 25 days after the system’s official implementation, the Los Angeles Times reported that L.A. Postmaster Leslie Shaw felt confident in the program’s longevity and success. Shaw reported that though there was “no great resistance from the general public,” there was some apathy toward the use of the codes. Shaw also reported that 65 per cent of mailers [in L.A.] were using ZIP Codes.(1) Similarly, in October, 1963, the Washington Post, Times Herald reported the Department’s successful implementation of the ZIP Code system. The article states, “[The Post Office Department] made most people aware that ZIP Code exists. And even if they’re not using it, they’re talking about it.”(2) While these two articles send the message that ZIP Code was quickly catching on among Americans, the comments from disgruntled Americans show that there are always two sides to a story. The success of ZIP Code portrayed in these articles might have been limited to certain areas of the country, or to select communities. It is also possible that the postal employees quoted in the articles embellished the extent to which ZIP Codes were being used in their communities.

Other newspaper articles recognized the difficulty ZIP Code was encountering across the country. A September, 1963 article in the Washington Post, Times Herald entitled, “At Least He Knows the Gloom of Night,” discussed the major tasks and problems that the new Postmaster General of the United States, John A. Gronouski, would face upon his appointment that same month. Among those “problems” was the ZIP Code system. The article stated that Gronouski would have to decide “on where to go with the new ZIP Code system, which postal officials hope will prove to be the hottest item with the public since the Barbie doll.”(3)

The need for public acceptance in order to make ZIP Code a success was acknowledged by the Post Office Department throughout the entire ZIP Code promotional campaign. In March, 1964, the Washington Post, Times Herald printed an article entitled, “Postal Chief Denies Death of Zip.” The article reported a statement made by Postmaster General Gronouski that, “the more the public uses the ZIP Code, the more successful we [the Post Office Department] will be in moving the mails. We need the help of the public so that we can provide the best possible postal service.”(4) The necessity of gaining public cooperation with ZIP Code was one main reason that the Department chose to reach out to the Ad Council for assistance. The absolute need for public cooperation contributed to the making of the ZIP Code campaign into one of the largest government promotional campaigns in American history to that point.

1) “ZIP Code Here to Stay, Says Postal Chief,” Los Angeles Times, July 28, 1963, G12, ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

2) “3-Month-Old ZIP Code Hailed as Great Success,” Washington Post, Times Herald, October, 1963, A5, ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

3) Jerry Doolittle, “At Least He Knows the Gloom of Night,” Washington Post, Times Herald, September 15, 1963, E1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

4) “Postal Chief Denies Death of Zip Code,” Washington Post, Times Herald, March 12, 1964, A19, ProQuest Historical Newspapers.