10, Louisiana
302 South Chataignier St
Ville Platte, LA 70586
(337) 506-3957

A Brief History of License Plates January 15, 2019

10, Evangeline
A Brief History of License Plates, 10, Louisiana

Vehicle registration plates, or what most people simply call license plates, are as much a fixture of modern life as the cars and trucks we attach them to. But have you ever wondered what road travel was like before license plates? Or how regulations changed as more cars crowded the streets? Here’s a quick look at the history.

How Long Have Governments Been Issuing License Plates?

As cars grew more popular at the start of the 20th century, it became necessary to acknowledge them as a legitimate means of transportation. New York became the first state to do so by mandating in 1901 that all vehicles be registered with the state. Motorists who registered their vehicles were granted the same rights as those who drove horses. As part of registering a car, the owner had to attach a homemade identifying tag to the vehicle.

In 1893, the French government became the first to distribute an early version of the license plate to motorists, but municipalities in America didn’t follow suit until 1903. It was then that Massachusetts started producing state-issued plates made of iron and porcelain. Other states quickly joined in. During that same year, for example, New York began supplying motorists with state-issued plates so they no longer had to make their own. By 1918, all states at the time were distributing their own vehicle tags. 

How Have License Plates Evolved Over the Years?

license platesThe earliest vehicle registration plates were made of leather pads or felt and depicted the car owner’s initials. Some people got creative when making their own tags, though, and materials that were commonly used included metal house letters, paint, and wood. In 1906, West Virginia stamped the first metal plate, a procedure that hasn’t changed much in more than 100 years. 

Idaho issued the first tag with a slogan—“Idaho Potatoes”—in 1928, and Pennsylvania allowed the first customized plates—although they were limited to the owner’s initials—in 1931. The metal shortage of WWII forced states to use alternatives like embossed fiberboard. By 1957, though, national standards were implemented, resulting in the plates that you still see today. 


If you’re buying a vehicle, turn to Guillory’s Title & Notary Service for help completing the transaction and securing the right license plates. Located in Ville Platte, LA, their friendly team provides comprehensive notary services to facilitate all kinds of arrangements, including new vehicle registration. Locally owned and operated, this fully licensed and bonded agency has been helping individuals and businesses throughout the area authenticate transactions since 2000. To schedule an appointment, fill out the request form on their website or call (337) 506-3957. 

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