Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 25, 2015
Early New York license plate

Early New York license plate

April 25, 1901: New York becomes the first state to require license plates. The first plates were issued in the German state of Baden in 1896. As more cars took to the roads, it became essential to be able to track those who behaved recklessly or caused accidents. To that end, a way of identifying a car’s ownership was established. In 1900, New York City was America’s largest city and they did not issue any kind of license so the state decided to take over. They required car owners to file an application with the state. Once done, the owner received a receipt of certificate and was then required to make his or her own plate with the owner’s initials on it. This helped, but soon people were simply creating a plate with any initials and placing them on the back of their cars.

In 1903, Massachusetts became the first state to manufacture the required plates. These earliest plates were made of leather, wood, and porcelain. By the middle of 1903, New York state figured out the problem with car owners making their own plates and also began the manufacture of the mandated plates. Numbered plates were issued and as proof that the number was legal, registration seals were also issued. Beginning in 1905, NY was added to the black on white plates. As the process of making plates was perfected, the materials changed as well. Today, Delaware is the only state that still permits porcelain license plates.

Mexico was the first country to issue reflective plates and did so in 1936. The embossed coating contained glass-like beads which would reflect light. Connecticut introduced this technology to their plates in 1948. Reflective sheeting was invented by 3M and replaced the beads-on-paint process in the 1960s and by 1970 most US states incorporated this into the manufacturing process. Idaho was the first state to add a graphic to their design when they added a potato in 1928. Pennsylvania was the first to offer custom, vanity, or personalized plates in 1931. Other states soon picked up the money making venture and allowed for personalized plates which generated millions of dollars for community projects.

The metal or plastic tag must be attached to the rear of the vehicle. There are some states which also require the tag to be displayed on the front of the vehicle, but these are in the minority. Some countries have a unique plate for any vehicle registered within the country while others subdivide the plates issued by each state or province. Whether the identifier is associated with a vehicle or a person varies by issuing agency. The information on the tag, plate, or identifier (jargon depends on area) offers information as well. Letters and numbers can indicate where the vehicle comes from as do color combinations or style. Sizes and materials used have become standardized and are nationally mandated.

IH8 PPL – Maine plate

SLZBAG – Arizona plate

HI DEBT – California plate on a Jaguar

VAMPYR – Australian plate found along side a sticker for the Australian Red Cross blood service

IMBROKE  – Mississippi plate

SHELEFT – plate on a Corvette

IDSRVIT!! – plate on a Lexus

UR NEXT – plate on a hearse

IM A CAR – New York plate

Also on this day: “Off With Their Heads” – The Queen of Hearts – In 1792, the first person is executed by the more humane method of guillotine.
Semiconductor – In 1961, Robert Noyce patented the semiconductor and opened the computer age.
Ouch! –  In 1684, a patent was granted for a thimble.
Rebellion Losses Bill – In 1849, the bill was signed into law.
Suez Canal – In 1859, ground was broken for the construction of the canal.

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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.