Mail Service in 1943 the Start of Zip Codes

Posted in: Announcements, Exhibitions

(Headline from The Geneva Republican Newspaper, June 4, 1943)

This is a post in celebration of the Geneva History Museum’s 75th anniversary, 1943 – 2018.

Visit our Feature Gallery In Other Words: The History of Communication in Geneva to learn more about Geneva’s postal service.  Open through November 3.

The new method of speeding up mail deliveries, through addition of a branch post office number to the address on mail for delivery in large cities is being placed in operation rapidly.  Reports from many cities indicate that it has been received enthusiastically by the press, postmasters, business concerns and the public.

Within a few days after initiation of the plan, under instructions of Postmaster General Frank C. Walker, nearly all the postmasters in the large cities affected had assigned postal unit numbers to their branch offices, millions of residents had been advised of the number to be added to their addresses, and a considerable volume of mail already was carrying the numbers assigned.

The new system speeds up the separation of mail for distribution to branch offices and permits much more rapid handling of mail by inexperienced postal clerks, thousands of whom have been employed to replace personnel who have gone into the armed forces and into war industries.

Rapid increase in volume of mail and the loss of some thirty thousand postal employees to the armed forces made it necessary to adopt the plan, in the interest of accurate, efficient mail service and for the relief of postal personnel who are carrying an extremely heavy burden of work.  The average work week in the service now is about 52 hours, and in many post offices, employees are working 10 and 12 hours a day, seven days a week, because of local shortages of personnel.

An example of the new type of address is:

John C. Smith

222 Mattapan Ave.

Boston 8


The number after the name of the city indicates the branch post office through which delivery is made.  Each resident of the large cities is asked by his postmaster to add the postal unit number to his return address, and to notify all to who he writes that his address is not complete without the number.

Under the new plan, mail that is sent to large cities, carrying the postal unit number, will be distributed more quickly than is possible now and with much less strain on postal clerks. While mail which does not bear the number will be delivered about as rapidly as at present, will not receive the benefit of the speedier distribution and may not avoid possible delays caused by inability of the depleted force of experienced employees to handle the mail.

Boston Globe: “The decision taken by the postal authorities to designate cities and towns not only by name but by number on all personal and business mail is a sound one.”

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