Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mr. Zip and the 5 Little Digits

Here's a promotional poster from 1964 introducing the US Post Office's new "Zip Code" and its speedy, ruddy-faced mascot, Mr. Zip. Artist uncredited.

Just 5 little digits! For instance 20500 -- What are they? That's zip code talk. It's the number for the White House. Why, even a postal clerk in Kwigillingok, Alaska, can mail directly to PResident Johnson -- with these numbers!

The campaign to promote the zip code was big. There were even Zip Code Parades, like this one in Tucson in 1965!

The "Mr. Zip" ad campaign was pervasive. I remember receiving a little pin like this one when my class from Roosevelt Elementary School visited the Iowa City Post Office. 

The POs even had testimonial dinners to honor local businesses who used the zip code correctly. There was a "Miss Zip Code."

Local post offices received press releases from the Federal Post Office to give to the local newspaper.

“[Mr. Zip] won’t be seen on the comic pages. In fact, Postmaster [fill in name of local postmaster] says, he [Mr. Zip] is expected to perform a much more vital role in both the business and social life of the community.”
The campaign embraced comics, since those little kids who read them would one day grow up and become Zip Code users.

Kids, even "Dick Tracy says: Protect Your Mail Use Zip Codes!"

There was a 1968 comic book too:

More here.

Here's the real poop on who he was and who created the guy:

Mr. Zip was actually created in the previous decade for the Chase Manhattan Bank.

I had no idea that before the USPS owned the little fellow, he worked for Chase! Oh, and then he worked for AT&T. So, really, by the time he was hired by the Post Office, he was a third-hand cartoon. He was originally created by Harold Wilcox in the 1950s for the Cunningham and Walsh advertising agency. 

It was later acquired by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), who offered its use to the Post Office Department at no cost. The Department made a few minor changes to the Mr. Zip design, including elongating his body and at times giving him a letter to hold in his hand. The Post Office Department also eventually changed the cartoon’s name from the original “Mr. P.O. Zone” to something catchier – Mr. Zip. Though Mr. Zip’s design was rather simplistic and “crude,” as noted by Postal employees, his whimsical characteristics would help him gain public recognition.
- The Zip Code Promotional Campaign

... And remember, as of January 1, 1967, using the "Zip Code" is the law.

Hat tip to Tom Heintjes!

1 comment:

DecaturHeel said...

Hey, thanks, Mike--great work here!