The History of License Plates – Where Did They Come from and Why Are They Needed?

The History Of License Plates

License plates have been around for a long time, and many people don’t even give them a second glance. However, license plates are not as old as cars, and the story of the very first license plates can be quite interesting.


The first time it was decided that license plates should be added to cars was about 118 years ago, in the year 1901. The first license plates, however, were made by the car owners themselves, and they simply contained the car owner’s initials. These license plates could be seen throughout the state of New York for up to two years, before license plates were first issued legally.  As they will teach you at driving lessons Orange County offers, you must obtain plates right away as your temporary plates expire, or at least within the 30 days after they expire.


While the 1901 license plates were mainly made from fabric, leather or iron, the license plates issued by the state two years later were made from iron and covered in porcelain enamel. The first license plate had the number “1” and was issued to a Mr. Fredrick Tudor in the state of Massachusetts. Later on, the state of Massachusetts became known as the first state to issue legal license plates, but by the year 1918, all the other states in the US began issuing their own regulations and plates associated with vehicle registration.