1914 California License Plate SOLD A581

Porcelain enamel 1914 California license plate. The first year they were issued.


California was very late in beginning the official issuance of license plates.  More
than a decade after New England first pioneered state-issued plates, California
first issued plates to motorists with a dated 1914 porcelain.  This ordinance was
passed on May 31, 1913, and became effective January first of the following year.
Newspapers reported that a contract for 100,000 pairs of passenger plates and
20,000 motorcycle plates weighing an aggregate of 165 tons was given to the
Motor Vehicle Department of the State Department of Engineering.  Not a few Californians were miffed, however, when the decision was made to send East for the manufacture of the plates, contracting with the Ingram-Richardson Manufacturing Company of Beaver Falls, PA for the nearly $40,000 order.  As one bitter editorial in the “Oakland Tribune” observed, “an automobile tag is not such a marvelous product of the artisan that factories in this state cannot fashion it.”  The plates cost the state 21½ cents each, and the registration fees paid by California motorists in 1914, which ranged between $5 and $30 depending on horsepower, helped to cover this expense.  In another misstep, the three-pound packages which automobile owners began receiving late in 1913 were sent using Wells Fargo Express Company, rather than parcel post.  As a result, the fifty-five cent cost of mailing, which had to be paid by the recipient upon delivery, was markedly higher than it would have otherwise been.  In January, this was rectified and the state began shipping via the U.S. Postal Service for a charge of only twenty-nine cents per package.

For a while, the authorities were lenient on prosecuting those without plates on
their cars because of a bitter fight regarding the constitutionality of the new
automobile law.  However, once the state Supreme Court upheld the legality of
the law, the state cracked down, and any motorists driving without their 1914
plates after about mid-March were liable to arrest.  The state law required plates
be conspicuously displayed on both front and rear, not less than 16 inches from
the ground.  The plates were not allowed to be fastened in such a way that they
could swing back and forth, and the rear plate had to be illuminated from one half hour after sunset to one half hour before sunrise.  Somewhere around 125,000 cars were registered in 1914, with plate #100,000 going to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

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