plates have come a long way since Massachusetts started making
license plates in 1903. The earliest tags were made from leather,
wood and porcelain (Delaware still permits porcelain plates).
The earliest reflective plates were actually introduced in Mexico
in 1936, but reflective plates didn't come into use in the United
States until 1948 in Connecticut. A beads-on-paint process accomplished
this early reflective technology. This technology was essentially
replaced by the introduction of reflective adhesive sheeting.
Most states have already converted to reflective sheeted plates,
a process first introduced in the 1960’s.
The earliest plates were simply numbered sequentially, but
both California and New York reached tag number 1,000,000
in 1924 - coincidentally the same year the John R. Wald Company
License plate manufacturing has typically been a correctional
industry with an emphasis on inmate employment and a relatively
low level of technological integration. However, as early
as 1928, Idaho introduced tags with a potato motif and in
1931, Pennsylvania became the first to produce ‘vanity’
tags. These early forays into the use of license plates for
advertising / personalization statements have grown to become
a major driving force in the modern day license plate business.
In light of all the changes license plate manufacturing has
seen, it remains important to remember the core purpose of
license plates: To provide a unique and clear personal
identity of a vehicle and its owner, day or night.
As plate designs and numbering requirements have become more
complex, technology has become an important factor in the
manufacturing process. With ever increasing usage of computer
technology in manufacturing processes, there has been a digital
revolution in the license plate industry. Click on the above
link to see how the Wald Company is Making It Work with new
For a more thorough overview and description of license plate
manufacturing technology, please refer to our White
Paper on the subject.