License plates today are commonplace symbols of a mobile society that are often taken for granted as we go about our daily business. Yet the practice of states' registering vehicles and thereby giving a registration number to a vehicle began less than a century ago in 1901, when New York became the first state to require motor vehicle registration. At first, vehicle owners had to make their own plates because the municipality or state with which they registered did not provide them. Everything from leather to porcelainized iron was used to display registration numbers. But the quick spread of the popularity of motorized cars across the nation led to the need for systematic registration at the state level. Not only did vehicles and their owners need to be identified, but governments recognized at once the taxation opportunities automobiles gave them.
The first state-issued plates were quite simple and came in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Not until 1956 was a nationwide standard for license plates adopted. This brought us the familiar six-inch by twelve-inch plate of today, which will fit on any automobile. But variety remains in the colors and designs of the plates. State flags, seals, nicknames, and symbols adorn many license plates. A buffalo roams the North Dakota plate and a bighorn sheep the Nevada plate. Mount Rainier majestically dominates the state of Washington plate and Mount Rushmore appears on South Dakota's plate. The Wright brothers' first airplane still flies on the North Car