Massachusetts License Plates

Massachusetts has the honor of being the first state in the union to issue license plates in 1903.  The first example had MASS AUTOMOBILE REGISTER on top of the license plate.  Beginning in 1903 through 1915, Massachusetts license plates were made of porcelain and numbers were painted on. There is no written record of early Massachusetts license plates.

The first graphic to appear on license plates from Massachusetts was an embossed codfish on the bottom of the 1928 issue.  This was in honor of commercial fishing in the state and to promote the fishing industry.  Massachusetts fishermen were horrified to see the codfish on the 1928 license plate swimming away from the word MASS and many superstitious fishermen viewed this as bad luck.  This error was corrected on the 1929 Massachusetts commercial license plate where the codfish actually swam toward MASS.  There was another symbol embossed/stamped on the bottom of 1926, 1930 and 1933 Massachusetts license plates – a horizontal line through a circle, which some may interpret as a rising sun or the planet Saturn.

Massachusetts was one of the wealthiest states in the union in the early days of the automobile and many collectors of fine automobiles hail from the state.  Like Iowa, Washington and Maryland, Massachusetts license plates were utilitarian and simple, but because of history, extremely popular with car collectors.  Today, one of the most popular license plates in the state is the translucent green on retro-reflective white license plate first issued in 1977.  Massachusetts issued its first retro-reflective license plate in 1967 –blue on retro-reflective white.


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