British Columbia Passenger License Plates

On April 25, 1901, New York became the first jurisdiction in North America to require that a vehicle be registered with the state and display a license plate identifying its owner.

To encourage good driving practices and shame bad drivers, New York thought it would be helpful if the license plate displayed the owners initials.

This is why the first person registered in New Yor, George F. Chamberlain, displayed the license plate "GFC" (his intials) as opposed to No. 1.

Chamberlain would also have been required to manufacture his own plate and the predominant form that these took in this period was metal house numbers on a leather base.

It became apparent, almost immediately, that this system was totally impractical as it only worked if there were relatively few car owners and they did not share the same initials.

On May 15, 1903, New York phased out its “initials” plates and replaced them with an all-numeric serial starting at No. 1.

A few months after New York switched to an all-numerica serial, Massachusetts introduced the first standardized state-issued plate made of baked porcelain on an iron base.

Massachusetts' plate No. 1 was issued to Frederick Tudor (shown at right), an employee with the state Highway Commission on September 1, 1903, and is reportedly (as of 2023) still held by the Tudor family over a century later.

An interesting facet of license plates in this period is that they did not display an expiry date and usually only displayed the state or province name as an acronym.



© Copyright Christopher John Garrish. All rights reserved.