British Columbia Passenger License Plates
1915-1917

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Proposals for the 1915 license plate contract were requested by the Provincial Police in August of 1914 and submissions were received from McClary Manufacturing (which had held the 1914 contract) as well as the Patent Metal Sign Company of New Westminster, MacDonald Manufacturing Company of Toronto, United Enamelling and Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles, the Pacific Coast Stamp Works of Seattle as well as a number of "manufacturing agents".

On August 24, 1914, the contract was awarded to MacDonald Manufacturing, who were reknowned for the quality of the lithography on tinware they produced.

The MacDonlad Manufacturing Company Factory - 401 Richmond Street West, Toronto (circa 1900)
MacDonald Manufacturing were had started producing license plates for the province of Ontario in 1912 and had expanded west in 1914 when they began to prouduce license plates for Alberta in 1914. It would be on the recommendation of Alberta that British Columbia would consider the company for the production of its plates.
MacDonald Manufacturing Limited - Canadian License Plates (1912-1921)
Dave Hollins Collection
Ontario - 1913
Ontario - 1914
Ontario - 1915
Ontario - 1916
Prince Edward Island - 1918
MacDonald Manufacturing were to produce "sixteen thousand (16,000) Auto markers, size five and three quarter inches by tweleve and three quarters ( 5 ¾ X 12 ¾) numbered one to eight thousand (1 - 8,000) in duplicate, red background, with five inch white numbers, with the B.C. Coat of Arms and B.C. 1915 to the left of each marker, at 18½¢ eighteen and one half cents each; Markers to be put in envelopes numbered on the outside, with corrugated card board between each marker, duplicate numbers in each envelope. Markers to be packed in boxes containing twenty-five (25) duplicate numbers, with the numbers of the markers contained therein, marked on the outside of each box."
The order also included 1,250 Demonstration plates (numbered D1 to D625 in duplicate) and 1,500 motorcycle license plates (numbered 1-1500 singly). The Police also requested that the numbers "be bright and clean, that is, the white is a pure white, and the red brilliant, so that the numbers will show up distinctly." All of the "markers" (as they were then referred to) needed to be delivered no later than November 18, 1914.
While never explicity stated by the Provincial Police, it is strongly suspected that the inspiration for the proposed white-on-red colours for the 1915 license plates, were the 1913 Alberta license plates which had used the same brilliant red and pure white colour scheme.

MacDonald Manufacturing replied to the Superintendent on September 1, 1914 advising that they could not produce "auto markers in red", to which Campbell advised that "we would accept auto markers with drak green background and pearl white figures."

1915
Jon Ilnytzky Collection
Bill Hobbis Collection
Bill Hobbis Collection
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:
1 to 8,000
Registered:
????
Over-run:
200
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
McDonald Mft.
Dimensions:
323 mm x 146 mm
Material:
Tin
Comments:
Despite the initial order of plates from MacDonald being for Nos. 1 to 8000, the last number registered in 1915 with an expiry date of December 31, 1915, was No. 8199.
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
.
Ron Garay Collection
Jon Ilnytzky Collection
Kamloops Museum Collection
Tom Lindner Collection
The No. 5701 was registered to the Grand Forks Public Works Department from May 22, 1913, through to at least December 31, 1917 (and possibly beyond). Note the appearance of the number on the side of the lantern. Photo from Dallas Doyle.

In early December of 1914, the Superintendent began the process of shipping the 1915 plates out to the various Provincial Police offices across the province. This process gives an indication of the geographic concentrations of motor vehicle ownership in Vancouver at this time as 135 boxes of "auto markers" (3,375 sets) or 42.2% were sent to the Chief Constable in the city.

In response to a query, the Superintendent advised on May 11, 1915, that approximately 7,500 automobile licenses had been issued "to date", however, in response to a separate query, the Superintendent advised on July 15, 1915, that approximately 7,159 vehicles had been registered. On December 23, 1915, the Superintendent responded to a final query, advising there were now 7,463 vehicles in British Columbia.


1916
Bill Hobbis Collection
Ron Garay Collection
Jon Ilnytzky Collection
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:
1 to 9,000
Registered:
????
Over-run:
350
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
McDonald Mft.
Dimensions:
323 mm x 146 mm
Material:
Tin
Comments:
The last number registered in 1916 with an expiry date of December 31, 1916, was No. 9342.
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
Bill Hobbis Collection
Jon Ilnytzky Collection
Kamloops Museum Collection
Tom Lindner Collection
       
*     *     *     *     *
As had occured in previous years, the Superintendent of Provincial Police, Colin S. Campbell, announced the tender for the 1917 license plate contract in various local newspapers in the middle of August (including the British Columbia Record - as shown at left).
While we here at BCpl8s.ca currently do not know who eventually won this contract, a portend of what was to come can be seen in some over-run plates there were produced late in the 1916 series by the company that we believe won the contract for the 1917 plates.
The plates shown below are from a photo by Anthony Bennett (left) and the collection of Ron Garay (right) which clearly show the change in font and quality of the coat-of-arms:

In looking at the plates at left, the No. 3702 displays the standard 1916 design (i.e. painted font of the numbers, coat-of-arms, etc.), while the No. 9316 is seen to be on the longer 1917 base with the 1917 fonts. Interestingly, the coat-of-arms on the No. 9316 is not reflective of the smaller coat-of-arms which appeared on low numbered 1917s, while the spacing of the "B.C." is similarly unique.
The No. 9316 was issued on November 24, 1916 to a Mr F. Pemberton of 601 Foul Bay Road in Victoria, with the last number issued in 1916 being the No. 9342 on December 29, 1916 (which would have been valid for all of 3 days - which leads us to wonder; really Mr Watson of Gordon Head, what was the point, could you not have waited a few days?).
With the plates at left, many of the same characteristics are present (obviously), but if you click on that photo for a higher resolution, a 1917 is also included for comparison purposes, however, it is a late issue 1917 so does not have exactly the same look as the No. 9268.

Earlier plates in the series attempted to duplicate the wire rim design that had been employed by MacDonald Manufacturing, however, the quality of the lithography was very poor, with the detail of the coat-of-arms seen in the 1916 plates replaced with smudging.
As the series progressed throughout 1917, the quality of the lithography noticeably improved, as did the basic design of the plate as the wire rim is replaced with a crimped edge and revised slot layout (also missing from the back is the tell-tale "MacDonald Manufacturing Company Limited Toronto" stamp letting us know where the plates had been manufactured.
It is believed that the very poor design of the coat-of-arms shown above at left appeared on the first 10,000 plates in the series; that the coat-of-arms shown above middle appeared on plates between 10,001 to 12,000; with the high quality coat-of-arms shown above right appeared on plates between 12,001 to 13,000.


The back of a 1917 BC license plate showing the combination wire rim & crimped metal edging.

One possible clue as to what was happening with the design of the 1917 plates is offered by a notice that appeared in the BC Record on December 11, 1917 (at left). According to this notice, consideration was being given to the re-use of the 1917 plates in 1918 - likely due to material shortages associated with war rationing - and, importantly, that the "cheap plates issued at the beginning of [the] year will have faded out, leaving the numbers undistinguishable." It would seem that the quality of the plates issued early in the series was known to both the government and motorists and that changes had been implemented at some point in order to improve the quality. Who, however, was manufacturing these plates remains uncertain at this time ... stay tuned as we here at BCpl8s.ca look for more information!
1917
Mike Barnsley Collection
Jon Ilnytzky Collection
Bill Hobbis Collection
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:
1 to 13,000
Registered:
????
Over-run:
????
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
unknown
Dimensions:
342 mm x 139 mm
Material:
Tin
Comments:
The last number issued in 1917 that expired at the end of 1917 was No. 13-000, which was registered to R.E. Greenwood of 554 Beatty Street in Vancouver on November 28, 1917.
Beacuse of the way in which the MVB distributed plates at this time, there were lower numbers issued later in the year than No. 13-000.
Interestingly, a number of vehicles were registered late in 1917 - even as late as December 31 - but were issued 1918 plates expiring on December 31, 1918. It is believed that this applied to Nos. 13-001 through to 13-006.

Bill Hobbis Collection
Tom Lindner Collection
Pierre Delacote Collection
Kamloops Museum Collection
Tom Lindner Collection
Jon Ilnytzky Collection
Todd Materi Collection
Bill Hobbis Collection
Tom Lindner Collection
Jon Ilnytzky Collection
Jon McKillop Collection
Bill Hobbis Collection
Ron Garay Collection
Ron Garay Collection
Dave Hollins Collection
Having access to the old Registrers maintained by the Motor Vehicle Branch is great for tracking down the name of a person who a plate was issued too, but usually that is all one has; text on a page. In rare instances, such as this, a photo can be found to go the name. In this case it is Charles Weigand (pictured at left) of 1339 Burnaby Street in Vancouver who first issued No. 6434 on December 12, 1913, and renewed it all the way through to 1917 (when the MVB records end). The photo of Weigand is courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives.
Shown at left is a photo of Verne Schudlt taken in 2004 wherein he is holding a very interesting example of a 1917 BC license plate. Although unconfirmed (as noted above), the highest BC plate thought to have been issued and/or manufactured in 1917 was the No. 13,000. With Verne holding the No. 14401, this photo seemingly repudiates this hypothesis. Unfortunately, Verne has since passed and his collection was dispersed many years ago amongst other collectors. Nevertheless, we are very hopeful that someone out there has this plate in their collection now and is able to send us a high resolution photo so we can see what we are dealing with here. The best way to contact us here at BCpl8s.ca is by email at cgarrish@yahoo.com.

Yet another great photo from the City of Vancouver Archives! This time, it is the Calladines Grocery drivers and their delivery trucks taken in December of 1917 - a date which we can confirm by the numbers on the vehicle's licence plates.
City of Vancouver Archives
What is partcularly neat about this photo is that it shows two of the different design variations found on the 1917 plate, with the low quality version common on the low digit plates (i.e. No. 2489) showing noticeable wear-and-tear after only 6 months of use.

The No. 2489 was initially issued to the MacDonald Manufacturing Company Limited of 1001 Main Street in Vancouver in 1913, before being transferred to Nanaimo for a brief period, after which it was registered with Calladines Grocery of 1588 Commercial Drive in Vancouver on June 6, 1917.

The No. 12325 was registered to Calladines Grocery of 1588 Commercial Drive in Vancouver on October 9, 1917.

Numbered License Plate Envelope (1917)
As the story goes, the No. 6991 was never put onto a car and ended up being stored in the original envelope from the Superintendent of Provincial Police for many, many decades. James L. MacKay of Athalmer (near Invermere in the Kootenays) first registered his Ford on March 26, 1914 and renewed it again in 1915 & 1916. But, as can been seen by these plates, they never made it onto the Ford the following year, which probably explains why the Register for this period does not show the vehicle as being on the road in 1917. Especially rare is the example of the original envelope, which predates the creation of the Motor Vehicle Branch.

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