Who made the first license plates?
On April 25, 1901, New York Governor Benjamin Odell Jr. signed into law a bill requiring owners of motor vehicles to register with the state. It mandated that the every automobile or motorcycle bear “the separate initials of the owner’s name placed upon the back thereof in a conspicuous place, the letters forming such initials to be at least three inches in height.”
Automobile owners made their own license “plates” and were expected to provide their own identifying letters. There were no restrictions on materials, style or color. Some owners used metal house letters on leather or wood, others painted the letters directly on their vehicles, license plate collector and historian Keith Marvin told TIME.