SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Happy Birthday to the ZIP Code. The American ZIP Code was launched 60 years ago as part of the United States Postal Service’s improvement program to increase postal delivery speed.

The USPS reports Americans were already struggling with the fairly new development of area codes for long-distance telephone use and needed a way to get the population behind the ZIP Code tracking system. ZIP is short for Zone Improvement Plan. Through an ad agency, the service came up with public service announcements in newspapers and on television and even had the famous Ethel Merman sing a ZIP Code song to the tune of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

Further efforts were award-winning. In 1966 the 15-minute film “ZIP Code” won a silver medal at the 1966 International Film and TV Festival for explaining the rationale behind the code.

Finally, a new mascot was unveiled, and Mr. Zip worked wonders according to the USPS to bring the 5-digit code system to public attention. By the end of the decade, the use of ZIP Codes had been established.

The USPS now uses a ZIP+4 system and the codes are used beyond just postal use. Social scientists, businesses, demographers and others use the codes to interpret, organize and disseminate data.

However, the main use still follows the message Merman sang in the 60’s “Welcome the ZIP code, learn it today, send your mail out the five-digit way.”