Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ZIP Codes

The inspiration for today's blog comes from this past weekend.  My sweetie and I were watching a TV show and they were talking about a ghost town in California.  It had become a thriving town during borax mining in the early 1900's.  They were showing old photos of mining, buildings in their prime compared to now, and so on when a guy said that the town had been so big that it even had its own zip code.  My radar went off - I thought zip codes came into effect after the town declined!  My new google search!
The precursor to our modern zip code system began in the 1940's.  Codes were first used in large cities in order to help quicken mail distribution.  The volume of mail increased dramatically after WWII and the US Post Office needed to adopt a new system nationwide.  Zip codes became mandatory for 2nd and 3rd class mail and bulk rate mail in 1967.  The zip code system expanded in the 1980's to include +4.  The +4 zip code is required for bulk mail.

I found out a few interesting things when I looked into this subject.  First of all, the zip code system was necessary because the amount of mail after WWII increased dramatically.  But the increase was due to business mail; personal correspondence (you know, letters) was actually decreasing and is now estimated to be less than 10% of the mail sent in this country.  Zip codes are not mandatory for first class mail (single piece)!  And lastly, I was surprised to find out that zip codes do not actually designate towns or even post offices but distribution centers.