The campaign began with the name itself — ZIP. It was a good name. ‘ZIP’ sounded a lot friendlier than Zone Improvement Plan, the Orwellian phrase for which ZIP was an acronym. At the same time, ZIP said speed. Mr. Zip — a hand-drawn, wide-eyed little postal guy — became the face of ZIP code promotional efforts, the embodiment of the harmless yet zippy quality of ZIP codes. (‘Mr. Zip’ was also a significant improvement on Mr. Zip’s original name “Mr. P.O. Zone”.) Mr. Zip was speedy and clever, like other American cartoon heroes: Bugs Bunny or Speedy Gonzalez or the Road Runner. After July 1, 1963 Mr. Zip was everywhere. Americans would turn on their radios or televisions or open a newspaper and there was Mr. Zip, banging the drum for ZIP codes. The ZIP code campaign was prolific and varied, appealing to Americans on every level possible. The word “revolution” in some campaigns appealed to the revolutionary spirit of the nation’s citizens. “This is Mr. Zip,” began one television Public Service Announcement. “He revolutionized the mail delivery system of the United States with his ZIP Code. The heart of the system is a number — a ZIP Code number.” One radio spot titled “Machine” played simultaneously to an American sense of duty and love of technological progress. It made ZIP codes sound like a method for shooting your letters right into outer space.

more from Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set here.