Ohio License Plates History
Ohio began issuing license plates in 1908, however the city of Cleveland issued its first license plate in 1901 (Cleveland was on par with Detroit in the early 1900’s auto manufacturing). From 1908 to 1911, the license plates were made of porcelain in Columbus. Cincinnati’s license plates were made of brass. Metal replaced porcelain in 1912 and the license plate numbers were painted on until 1917. Embossed license plates were introduced in 1918 and plates were issued in pairs, except during the World War II era from 1939 to 1945 when due to the shortage of metal only single license plates were issued.
Starting in 1935, a county coding scheme involving the letters in the plate's serial number was introduced. This scheme was used throughout the state until the 1970's, when the system broke down in the most populous counties because of the number of vehicles registered. The coding scheme was abandoned with the issuance of the 1982 plates. Today, there is a county coding scheme on a sticker that displays the county number based on its placement in alphabetical order.
In 1938, the first slogan appeared on Ohio’s license plates "150 ANNIV. N.W. TERRITORY". An embossed image of a conestoga wagon used by westward bound settlers was also used on this commemorative license plate. The next commemorative license plate was issued in 1953 to mark 150 years of statehood for Ohio. From 1973 through 1975, Ohio's embossed slogan was "SEAT BELTS FASTENED?" along the top of the plate. The next symbol on Ohio license plates was the solid map of the state introduced in 1980, separating letters from numbers.
Ohio introduced retro-reflective foil from 3M on license plates in 1974 and has continued its use ever since. As a state which had a pioneering auto manufacturing business in the early 1900’s, Ohioans are dedicated car collectors. Famous Ohio car manufacturers include Packard, Studebaker and Willys, and with this automotive history, Ohioans continue to restore and preserve American classics – even cars and trucks made in Detroit, Michigan.