British Columbia Passenger License Plates
1918-1923

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A stroll through the US Patent Database (thanks Google!) for "renewable license plate" inventions registered between 1910 to 1920, will return will return some very complicated and potentially unworkable concepts (such as the dial based version for Washington State shown at right). What was driving jurisdictions to investigate renewable plates was the increase in vehicle ownership during this period and subsequent restrictions on materials related to the war effort.
It is not surprising, therefore, that British Columbia would roll-out its own renewable plate in 1918, the year the license plate contract was awarded for the first time to a Vancouver firm; J.R. Tacey & Son "Sheet Metal Manufacturers" of 550 6th Avenue West.
1918
3-digit
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:
1 to ?
Registered:
(unknown)
Over-run:
(not applicable)
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
J.R. Tacey & Sons
Dimensions:
365 mm x 133 mm
Material:
Steel
Comments:
First embossed steel plates issued in BC, also first time since 1914 that the inter-locking "BC" acronyn was used.
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
Tom Lindner Collection
Other than the outrageously high number on this 1918, the bolt slots at the bottom of the plate are missing, which leads us to believe that this is some sort of manufacturers specimen (possibly produced by Tacey & Sons as they pursued contracts with other Canadian provinces?).
1919
3-digit
Ron Garay Collection
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:
1 to ?
Registered:
(unknown)
Over-run:
(not applicable)
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
J.R. Tacey & Sons
Dimensions:
90 mm x 110 mm
Material:
Steel
Comments:
Renewal tabs with corresponding numbers to the base plate issued in 1918 were used in 1919.
It is thought that the base plate went as high as No. 22,000 (see below).
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
Most of the plates used in 1919 were comprised of the 1918 base with a 1919 white-on-green renewal tab. For those vehicles, however, that were purchased new, or brought into the province, new license plates were required and when the stock of 1918 bases had been completely issued, a new bloc was produced which are blank on the left side of the plate.
First off, the plate at left is a terrible repaint! Now that is out of the way, we know this base was manufactured in 1919 and used that same year by the absence of the date (1918) under the inter-linking "BC" acronym and the missing outline box.
Towards the end of 1919, after the undated bases had been issued, material shortages that continued after the end of the Great War prompted the Provincial Police to contract with a printer in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver to produce a small run of very thin cardboard plates - one of the rarest of all BC license plates. One of the only known surviving examples of one of these plates is the No. 21965 shown below.
It is believed that these cardboard plates were also issued in pairs and might have only been issued for the last fews months of 1919.
The "Motor Vehicle Receipt" (far left) and "Registration Form" were submitted to BCpl8s.ca by Tom Bourne, who advises that it was issued to his grandfather, W. Cox.
As can be seen on both documents, they are date stamped the 15th of November, 1919, but of even more interest is that the "Motor Licence Number." (which is taken to be the number on the license plate) is shown as 21,722.
It is likely that by this time of the year, the supply of regular license plates had been exhausted and that the recipient would have received a temporary cardboard plate to see them through to 1920 and the issuance of a new base plate.
1920
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:
1 to ?
Registered:
(unknown)
Over-run:
(unknown)
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
J.R. Tacey & Sons
Dimensions:
363 mm x 135 mm
Material:
Steel
Comments:
.
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
According to an article in the local press in 1920, it was reported that:
J.R. Tacey & Son, one of the pioneer firms of Vancouver, who specialize in blower and ventilating systems for saw mills, have for some time found their present factory on Seymour Street too small for their rapidly growing business. Mr Tacey yesterday awarded a contract to Mr Peter Tardiff for the erection of a combined factory building and garage to cost about $6,000. The new factory is to be erected at 550 Sixth Avenue, west, almost opposite the Vancouver Engineering Works ... In size, the new building will be 50 by 80 feet and will be constructed with a concrete foundation and hollow tile and mill frame superstructure.
Tacey & Son, who are the only firm in Canada manufacturing embossed auto plates, have been turning out all the auto license plates for British Columbia since 1917. Some of the prairie provinces are now taking advantage of the facilities of this local plant to patronize Canadian industry, but the other provinces in the Dominion have so far had to import their auto license plates from the American side. In the new factory, Tacey & Son intend to install considerable new machinery for this class of work, including an electric oven for enamelling the embossed license plates. The oven will have a capacity of 200 cubic feet and will be the largest of its kind in Canada.
Tacey would win the contract for the 1920 license plate series and included a feature, reputed to be a "patented device" (despite the Canadian Patents Database showing the only patent registered to John Rueden Tacey being a "sun and rain visor for windshields of automobiles in 1923) that would allow for the renewal of the plates by a tab in 1921 and 1922.
Consequently, due to Tacey's Patent, no tenders were posted in 1921 or 1922, while "34,500 pairs of motor number plate markers" would be purchased from Tacey & Son in 1922 at a cost of $8,500.00.
1921
3-digit
Ron Garay Collection
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:
1 to ?
Registered:
(unknown)
Over-run:
(unknown)
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
J.R. Tacey & Sons
Dimensions:
98 mm x 120 mm
Material:
Steel
Comments:
Renewal tabs with corresponding numbers to the base plate issued in 1920 were used in 1921.
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
Bill Hobbis Collection
At left is a random photo from the 1950s or possibly 1960s celebrating (obviously) someone getting hitched - the significance of attaching a 1921 plate to the car is beyond us ... Above is the same plate many decades later. Tres cool!
1922
Ron Garay Collection
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:
1 to 34,500
Registered:
(unknown)
Over-run:
(unknown)
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
J.R. Tacey & Sons
Dimensions:
98 mm x 120 mm
Material:
Steel
Comments:
Renewal tabs with corresponding numbers to the base plate issued in 1920 were used in 1922.
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
What makes the 1921 plate with matching tab one of the hardest BC's to obtain is the use of a similar tab in 1922.  As a result, when many motorists obtained their 1922 tabs, they simply discarded the '21 tabs. It is important, therefore, to look for a tab that matches the number on the 1920 base plate, such as the ones pictured above.
It is also important to look for a tab that matches the number on the 1920 base plate, or if the numbers do match, to ensure that the base is an actual 1920 (and not the very similar looking 1918).
1923
3-digit
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:
1 to 41,000
Registered:
(unknown)
Over-run:
(not applicable)
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
J.R. Tacey & Sons
Dimensions:
361 mm x 135 mm
Material:
Steel
Comments:
...
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
Ron Garay Collection - Issued from Vancouver office of Motor Vehicle Branch (MVB)  
In answering a question in the Legislative Assembly in late 1923, the Attorney General Manson advised that tenders for the plate contract that year had been received from the:
Thomas Metal Sign Company (Ontario):
$7,421
The B.C. Iron Works (Victoria):
$10,444
J.R. Tacey & Son (Vancouver):
$10,500
F. Mellow, Esq. (Victoria):
$11,190
E.L. Woodruff, Esq., (Victoria) - 22 gauge:
$19,046
E.L. Woodruff, Esq., (Victoria) - 24 gauge:
$18,446
The Western Engineering Company (Vancouver)
$22,250
The Hiker Manufacturing Company (Victoria) - 24 US:
$26,110
The Hiker Manufacturing Company (Victoria) - 22 English:
$26,110
T.A. Hill, Esq., (Vancouver):
$26,995
The Western Toy Company (Vancouver):
$28,302
The contract would, again, be awarded to J.R. Tacey & Son, who would, according to Manson, produce 41,300 pairs of license plates and "2,600 single motor number-plates".
As can be seen, the basic design of the 1923 plate would differ little from the 1920 base with the main differences being the absence of slot holes for renewal tabs and a redesigned "BC" logo (which was a response to criticisms regarding the legibility of the 1918 & 1920 stylised / interwoven acronym). Otherwise, the shape of the plate remained the same, as did the dies used in 1918 & 1920, and yellow paint on the numbers and letters.

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