Thursday Trivia

Thirsday Trivia

Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a History test, with cars!

This week’s question is: What was the first U.S. state to issue automobile license plates, and what year did they start? 

If you know the answer, make the jump to see if you are correct.  After all, we’re serving it up on a plate.


Mass #1Although New York was the first state to require automobiles have license plates (1901), these plates were made by individual owners (with the owner’s initials) rather than state-issued plates.

The first state-issued license plates were issued in Massachusetts, beginning in 1903. The very first plate, featuring the number “1,” was issued to Frederick Tudor. (One of his relatives still holds an active registration on the plate.)

You may have noted the emphasis placed on the word issue in the question above. While New York first required the tagging of cars back in 1901, it was Massachusetts that, starting in June 1903, handed out the plates rather than requiring horseless carriage owners to fashion their own. The appearance of these new state-issued plates is described, again from

These early Massachusetts license plates were made of iron and covered in a porcelain enamel. The background was colored a cobalt blue and the number was in white. Along the top of the plate, also in white, were the words: “MASS. AUTOMOBILE REGISTER.” The size of the plate was not constant; it grew wider as the plate number reached into the tens, hundreds, and thousands.

Image source: PopularMechanics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

6 responses to “Thursday Trivia”

  1. MVEilenstein Avatar

    Again, I'm guessing somewhere in the northeast. New Jersey?
    EDIT: So close.

  2. domino_vitali Avatar

    Massachusetts was my guess, with Michigan as a close second, for obvious reasons.
    Very interesting, thanks!

  3. dukeisduke Avatar

    Hmmmm… I think I saw this on the Hemmings Daily blog recently.

  4. Kamil_K Avatar

    People in MA have a very weird obsession with low-number license plates.
    Since there are many of the themed license plates (cancer, sports teams, nature, and other crap), people have been fighting (ok, not really "fighting") over a low number plate in each category.

  5. dropgate Avatar

    I guessed New York, 1901! I win, I win, I….D'oh.

  6. spotarama Avatar

    didn't some states issue leather 'plates' – i'm sure i saw it on American Pickers a while ago

%d bloggers like this: