Little Bits of History

License, Please

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 14, 2014
License plates of France today

License plates of France today

August 14, 1893: France starts car registration. License plates are metal or plastic plates attached to a motor vehicle or trailer used for official identification purposes. The plate has numbers and/or letters which are unique and identifies the vehicle via a database. In some areas, there is a unique identifier for the entire country while others, with a larger population base, must use smaller regions within the country. Some have a unique registration for each state while other countries use provinces to subdivide the nation. Some jurisdictions permanently assign a registration plate to the vehicle. When moving out of a jurisdiction, new registration plates will be needed. If the visit is short and not a permanent move, there is no need to change the registration.

The Paris Police Ordinance was passed on this day, requiring French drivers to register vehicles. Germany followed in 1895 and the Netherlands was the first to introduce a national license plate, called a “driving permit”. They began issuing these in 1898 and the first plate was issued as 1 and they were numerically increased. By the end of 1899 they had issued 168 permits. In the US, each state issues a plate and the need for these was determined at the state level. New York State was the first to require a plate and did so in 1901. The plates themselves were not issued by the government and were issued by jurisdictions with some people having to manufacture their own tag. Massachusetts was the first state to actually issue the plates in 1903. The UK declared in 1903 plates would be required as of January 1, 1904.

Most jurisdictions require both a plate on the front and the rear of a vehicle but grant motorcycles the right to display just one plate on the back. National or state/province databases also gather other information about the vehicle when it is registered. Make, model, color, and year of manufacture is usually included but engine size, type of fuel, and mileage (obtained during road worthiness tests), along with a VIN [Vehicle Identification (Chassis) Number], can be included. The name and address of the owner are also pertinent data. Also available in some areas are vanity plates, although these are usually vetted by some method to prevent an unwanted message from being broadcast.

In the US, plates require periodic changing. Usually once every year a new license is granted even if it is only a sticker to place on the current plate or the windshield in order to indicate when the plate expires. Since the cost of creating the plates has increased, this cost-saving measure has been growing in the past few decades. When selling a car, the plates are removed from the vehicle and the new owner must then register it and get new plates. If the seller wishes to purchase another car and still has the valid plates, they can be transferred to the new vehicle. The plates must meet certain standards and be always readable either by eye or by electronic equipment. Agreements between nations or states often allow for vehicles of one region to be driven across borders and into another region with government help should information from a different database be required.

Love your custom license plate. Oh wait, no I don’t. Makes me want to hit you. – Justine Ezarik

I saw a license plate yesterday that said “I Miss New York”, so I smashed their window and stole their radio. – anonymous

There’s a spinning teacup illegally parked. license plate: R-U-DIZZY. – Mickey Mouse

Just witnessed a hit and run with my friends car…Good thing I have a photographic memory and got that license plate memorized!! – Alex Morgan

Also on this day: Literally – In 1457, the first exactly dated book is published.
Burn, Baby, Burn – In 1933, Oregon was plagued by wild fires.
Insecure – In 1935, the Social Security Act was signed into law.
Oregon, More than a Trail – In 1848, the Territory of Oregon was established.


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