Who Put the Snail in Mail?

Product: Zip codes, United States Postal Service
Date: 1969

1969 ad USPS snail mail

Bet you thought the term “snail mail” was added to the popular lexicon when email went mainstream in the early 1990s and postal mail came to seem so old school. I know I did.

So imagine my surprise when I came across this 1969 ad from the United States Postal Service with a huge Snail Mail headline. The ad explains that mail without a zip code would move at a snail’s pace.

Zip codes became mandatory in the United States in 1963. Six years later, this ad shows there was still a problem with getting the public to use them.

Incidentally, though “zip” actually stands for Zone Improvement Plan, the acronym was chosen to underscore how much more quickly postal codes could move the mail.

Wikipedia dates the earliest known use of the term Snail Mail to a 1981 Strawberry Shortcake episode, of all things. Guess I better mosey on over there and update the entry.


1969 ad USPS zip codes

Click to enlarge.

Sorry the enlarged ad — the one that comes up when you click on the thumbnail — isn’t bigger. Normally I try to scan the ads at a large enough size to read all the text. But I scanned this ad a couple of years ago and it’s a smaller size.

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