The Great British Columbia License Plates Runs!

The "Good Roads Everywhere" Campaign

The "Good Roads Everywhere" Campaign is very much the story of one man, Charles Henry Davis, and his desire to see a national highway system constructed in the United States.

The Davis family had extensive commercial and industrial holdings at the turn of the twentieth century, including the American Road Machine Company (of which Charles would later be president), as well as Kentucky coal fields controlled through the Kentenia Mining Company.

Davis would subsequently lease the Kentenia stake to Henry Ford on a basis that Ford do all the mining and pay Davis an agreed price per car load of coal in addition to a royalty on each Ford car that was produced.

This agreement would subsequently become the principal source of Henry's wealth, and is assumed to be one of the driving forces behind his initial involvement in the Good Roads Campaign - a movement which ultimately sought to improve the motoring experience in the United States, and extend automobile ownership.

In 1911, Davis established the National Highways Association, which he used to advocate for a "Four-Fold" highway system that was to be comprised of a 50,000 mile National Highways Network that would be fed by 100,000 miles of United States Highways; 100,000 miles State Highways built with Federal aid; and various Local Roads built by towns and counties.

As a promotional idea, Davis convinced all of the (then) 48 American States; the territories of Alaska and Hawaii; six "Dependencies" (such as Guam and Puerto Rico); all of the (then) nine Canadian provinces; the Yukon Territory; Newfoundland; and other hemispheric countries (i.e. Panama), to issue license plate No. 25 from their jurisdiction to him.
British Columbia License Plate No. 25

Jon Ilnytzky Collection


Davis then attached all these license plates to his personal vehicle, while a second car that he owned was decorated with the insignias of all the current automobile societies in the country.

Charles H. Davis (left) standing beside his Hudson. The Hudson was decorated with the Number 25 License Plate from all over North America.

Photograph, courtesy of Richard Weingroff (circa 1920s).

This unusual two-car caravan was then used to tour the United States and draw attention to his cause of "Good Roads Everywhere".
Accordingly to Conrad Hughson, the reason that the No. 25 had been selected was that this was the number that Davis had been issued in his home state of Massachusetts.

When Davis died on June 2, 1951, it is understood that his collection of No. 25 license plates covered the walls of a carriage house found on his property. Later, the State Government would acquire the property for the purpose of constructing a new road across Cape Cod. At this point it is believed that the plates began to disperse into the hands of various collectors.

Anecdotally, it is believed that Davis started compiling No. 25 plates in the mid-1920s (possibly 1925) through to 1940.

Interestingly, some of the license plates that were provided to Davis would never have been issued by that particular jurisdiction. For instance, Prince Edward Island (PEI) did not issue two-digit numeric plates in the 1920s. Accordingly, the No. 25 plate provided to Davis would not have been a valid registration number.

In British Columbia, the practice was slightly different. Plate No. 25 had been issued since the first year of vehicle registrations in 1904. As low numbered BC license plates could be renewed annually, and rather than revoke the number in favour of Mr Davis, it is believed that the Motor Vehicle Branch (MVB) simply produced an additional set of No. 25 plates.

Richard F. Weingroff, "Good Roads Everywhere: Charles Henry Davis and the National Highways Association", Highway History, U.S. Department of Transportation, (10 July 2009).
G. William Whitworth, "Good Roads License Plates", (10 July 2009).
Rickie Longfellow, "Montana Resident Donates Charles Henry Davis' 1936 Montana License Plates", Highway History, U.S. Department of Transportation, (10 July 2009).


© Copyright Christopher John Garrish. All rights reserved.