Today, I thought I would send my mother via snail mail the traditional Valentine’s card. It’s been a while since I had to remember my New York childhood mailing address. Obviously. I can remember the street name and town, but I couldn’t recall the zip code. Out of desperation, I called my brother. Upon telling him why I needed the zip code, he told me, and of course, after reminding him about Valentine’s Day he ran out and bought my mother a box of chocolates.
Besides potentially determining Boston real estate taxes, what do zip codes really mean and why do we have them?
Zip codes are actually a much more recent phenomenon than you might believe. In fact, they’re only 52 years old—a concept that was introduced during World War II, and officially implemented in 1963. The zip (Zoning Improvement Plan) code was created when the postal service lost a huge portion of their staff who went to fight in the war. Because of this, they needed a simple way to help the understaffed postal service deliver mail effectively.
Initially, the zip code was only a two-digit number: the first denoted the city, the second denoted the state. But as the need for delivery expanded, so did the concept of the zip code. As of 1963, zip codes’ numbers are determined by a few factors: the area, the regional postal facility, and the local zone.
The first number of the five-digit code signifies the region in which the address is located, a number that grows from the east coast to the west. For example, Eastern states such as Maine and downtown Boston begin with 0 or 1, whereas the Western states of California and Washington begin with a 9. The second two digits in the code determine a smaller region within each initial area that translates to a central post office facility for that area. The final two digits signify the local post office of the address.
You may have noticed that zip codes often have a hyphenated four-digit number on the back end which is rarely used. This annex was created to help further specify addresses, but according to Business Insider, the creation of sorting and location technologies removed the need for the additional four numbers. The final numbers further specified the location of the delivery area.
Now before you call me and tell me you want to buy a multi-million dollar Back Bay condo from me, please do me a favor first mail your mon a traditional CVS Valentines Card.
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Source: Business Insider