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The Two "Mr. ZIP Codes"
Two Mr. ZIPS: The Inventor and the Ambassador
"Mr. ZIP Codes": Robert Aurand Moon, Inventor of the Zoning Improvement Plan (ZIP) Codes
The Zoning Improvement Plan (ZIP) Codes were invented by Robert Aurand Moon in the 1950’s although they didn’t come into use by the Post Office until 1963. As the Father of ZIP Codes, Moon was also known as “Mr. ZIP Code.”
Moon, born on April 15, 1917 in Williamsport, PA, was the United States director of mail delivery services for seven years. He started working for the post office in the 1940s as a postal inspector in Philadelphia and Chicago. According to his wife of over 50 years, Barbara Moon, this was the period when he began working on his idea of a Zoning Improvement Plan (ZIP), and the invention of ZIP Codes.
Moon originally invented a three-digit code system that he believed was necessary for the post office to keep up with the mail volume after WWII. This system was later expanded into the ZIP Code system put into use in 1963. Moon’s numerical system was designed from the outset for mechanical sorting.
“Mr. ZIP Code” retired from his position in 1965. Moon returned to work as the Director of Delivery Services in Washington, DC in 1970. He retired from that post in 1977 and moved to Zellwood, FL with his wife.
“Mr. ZIP Code” was an active volunteer while in Florida, participating in Meals on Wheels in Orange County, the Zellwood Methodist Church and Florida Hospital.
“Mr. ZIP Code” died on April 10, 2001 at 83 years of age at the Leesburg Nursing Center in Leesburg, FL. His ZIP Code at the time of his death: 34748.
Mr. Zip: ZIP Codes Ambassador
When the ZIP Code system was first introduced to the public in 1963, the post office had a hard time convincing millions of letter writers to add the unfamiliar extra numbers to each address.
Public resistance might have foiled the ZIP Code system were it not for Mr. Zip – the cute and efficient-looking ambassador of the new system. According to USPO FAQ’s, “the character Mr. Zip was designed to promote adoption of the new ZIP Code”.
This friendly little salesman in blue was embraced by the public and did an amazing job of making ZIP Code usage commonplace. Mr. Zip’s theme song was “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” sung by Ethel Merman. He appeared on several stamps, stamp selvage and post office publicity items from 1964 to 1986.
After the introduction of Mr. Zip presenting his plea to use ZIP codes on all correspondence, the public embraced the new system. Today, there is more than 95% compliance with the ZIP Code program.
In 1986, Mr. Zip was retired by the post office. The new nine-digit Zip + 4 Code had been developed, and the Post Office felt that their little ambassador had become “an anachronism” that needed to be put to rest.