Sunday, January 23, 2011

Massachusetts Issues State License Plates, 1903

Massachusetts was the first state to issue automobile license plates, starting in June 1903.  The plates featured white letters on a cobalt blue background, with the words MASS AUTOMOBILE REGISTER across the top.  They were made of porcelain-covered iron, and were quite small, growing wider as the number of registered vehicles grew larger.

When the law requiring the plates was enacted by the Legislature, the public was given until September, 1903 to comply.  The first plate issued was number "1", to a man named Frederick Tudor.  That number is still an active registration in Massachusetts, held by a member of the Tudor family.

Through 1907, the year of issue was not printed--but unique number ranges were assigned to each year.

For example, in 1905, plates were issued in the range 7,014-11,902.  The middle plate on the first row below, from, is a plate issued in 1905.  In 1908, as can be seen in the third plate in the first row, the year of issue started appearing on the plate.

Prior to the enactment of the new law in 1903, Boston was the only Massachusetts locale requiring automobile registration, and automobile owners had to make their own plates.

Illustration Credits and References

For further information, see the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles site.  The first license plate illustration in this post appears there as well.