During his 77 years in the spotlight, the wildfire prevention mascot has kindled lots of goodwill. So much, in fact, that in 1964, the U.S. Postal Service created a unique ZIP code for Smokey Bear’s mail. Not bad for a mascot that started out as a purely fictional character. In 1944, working on a commission from the War Advertising Council and the U.S. Forest Service, Saturday Evening Post artist Albert Staehle and writer Harold Rosenberg crafted the reassuring, safety-conscious black bear, now the face of the country’s longest-running public service campaign, where he frequently shares his famous slogan: “Only you can prevent wildfires.”
In 1950, a five-pound black bear cub rescued from a New Mexico wildfire by Taos Pueblo firefighters was christened “Smokey Bear” as a living homage to the popular protective figure. This bear spent the rest of his life at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. There, he, his successor — Smokey II — and their alter ego received up to 13,000 letters, drawings, Christmas cards, and honey shipments each week. To help sort these deliveries, the bears were given their own Washington, D.C. ZIP code: 20252. Some of the mail was undoubtedly postmarked with Smokey Bear stamps, which were printed with the likenesses of the first two bears and released on the 40th anniversary of the character’s debut. From around 2007 to 2014, the ZIP code was decommissioned, but it was revived for the mascot’s 70th anniversary. The original bear also has his own Instagram and Twitter accounts, where he shares fire prevention tips with the hashtag #OnlyYou — now a more vital message than ever.
Sometimes, an address receives such a high volume of mail that the best way for the USPS to stay organized is to give the property its own five-digit ZIP code. This phenomenon is particularly common in New York City, which is home to 8.3 million people. In the borough of Manhattan alone, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and 30 Rockefeller Center are just a few landmarks with their own ZIP codes. Within greater New York State, there are site-specific ZIP codes too, such as 12345 for the General Electric headquarters in Schenectady. Other buildings around the country also have their own ZIP codes — including L.A.’s Dodger Stadium, Chicago’s Willis Tower, and the White House.