Tuesday, April 25, 2006

This Day in History: April 25, 1901



New York is the first state to require license plates

In the United States, the first license plates used on automobiles were seen in New York, in 1901. The first NY plates actually had no numbers. From 1901 through 1902, the plates were usually leather pads or flat metal plates, with attached letters indicating the initials of the car owner. New York didn't actually produce a state-issued license plate until 1910, when a cream on blue steel plate was made - undated, with riveted numbers. Plates in New York from 1901 through 1909 were owner-provided plates, usually referred to by plate collectors as "pre-states", because they were "pre-state issue".

Massachusetts and West Virginia were the first states to issue plates, in 1903. The earliest plates were made out of porcelain baked onto iron, or simple ceramic with no backing, which made them extremely fragile and impractical. Few examples of these earliest plates survive. Later materials experimented with include cardboard, leather, plastic, and during wartime shortages, copper and pressed soybeans.

Earlier plates varied in size and even shape from one jurisdiction to the next, such that if one moved, new holes would be needed drilled into the bumper to support the new plate. Standardization of plates came in 1957, when automobile manufacturers came to agreement with governments and international standards organizations. Our standard, the one used in the bulk of the Western Hemisphere countries, is six by 12 inches.

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I just came across this little event, and while it’s not incredibly historically significant, it’s rather interesting, don’t you think?

Today is a very un-San Diego day. Cloudy and chilly. Ick. It makes me want to curl up on the couch and watch movies. Maybe Casablanca? ;)
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Set of 10 vintage license plates
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