How Are ZIP Codes Assigned?

I have often wondered how ZIP codes were laid out across the US -- what's the logic behind my Portland, Oregon address having a ZIP starting in 9, while New York addresses start with 1?

Well, the web has tons of resources to help you figure out ZIP codes. First is Ben Fry's zipdecode, an interactive web site that lets you type in a ZIP code and watch the map narrow down as it searches for that code. (Try it -- it's neat and educational.) You can also use this interactive map to see the logic in the nationwide layout of ZIP codes -- start by typing a 0, then backspace, and type 1, and so on...up through 9, you'll see the ZIP codes laid out from northeast to the west. Also check out Robert Kosara's US ZIPScribble Map, which connects the various numbered zones via colored scribbles. (Thanks to Geo Lounge for these pointers.)

Wikipedia has a great page on ZIP codes, detailing the history and logic behind the system. Be sure to consult the awesome pop culture section for some serious ZIP code trivia.

And finally, here are some ZIP codes I found interesting:

ZIP Code City
12345 Schenectady, NY (aka General Electric headquarters)
10001 New York, NY (aka Empire State, NY)
01776 Sudbury, MA
01010 Brimfield, MA
10101 New York, NY
55555 Young America, MN
44444 Newton Falls, OH
22222 Arlington, VA
48151 (start of the Lost Numbers) Livonia, MI
31415 (Pi) Savannah, GA
90909 Fictional - featured on TV's Veronica Mars

And that little guy pictured above, encouraging us to use ZIP codes? He's Mr. ZIP! For a bit of fun, check out this All Things Considered story (an April Fools' joke) on 'Vanity' ZIP codes.

A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

A Tour of the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room

The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.


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