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image credits: All plate pics are from TXDOT, eBay, or the author.
Following is a timeline history of Texas automobile registration and license plates.
This information has been compiled by me (Nick DiFonzo) from official State sources,
information from other collectors, the ALPCA archives, and evidence from actual plates.

Please e-mail me with additional info, corrections, or comments, or interesting pictures.

Pictures are from my personal collection, EBAY, or as noted.




  • The first automobile in Texas, owned by Col. E.H.R. Green of Terell, terrorizes the Texas countryside.


  • 1907: Texas House Bill #93 required that all motor vehicles used on public roads be registered with the county clerk. The vehicle recieved a number in the order registered in each county. That number, at least six inches in height, was required to be displayed "in a counspicuous place" on the vehicle.
  • Registration began on Aug. 10, 1907. The first Texas license number is issued, registered to a bus owned by W.B. Chenoweth of Colorado City, TX.
  • Each county had its own series, from "1" onward, so many duplicate numbers existed.
  • Owners provided their own plates, often made from aluminum house numbers attached to leather, or from wood, tin, etc. Most of these showed only the number, with no indication of the state or county.
  • Many motorists used porcelain "kit plates" with interchangeable numbers and often the name of the city or county. These kits were made by a company in Chicago.
  • Some motorists simply painted the number on the vehicle!
  • These pre-1917 plates are called "pre-state" plates.
  • Some cities had county or city licenses in addition to that required by the state.
  • 1910: 14,286 registered vehicle

1917 plate
("first batch")

Radiator Seals from 1917-22


  • In April, the State Highway Department was established, and takes over vehicle registration duties from the county.
  • The statewide registration process on July 1, and the state began issuing the first official Texas license plates. 
  • The white on dark blue embossed iron plates were undated and intended to be permanent. 
  • 400,000 pairs were made, measuring 5 7/16" x 16", with "TEX" down the right side of the plate.  Low number plates of fewer than 6 digits were shorter.
  • Round "radiator seals" for 1917 (white on red) were used to validate the plate. 
  • Dealer (D), Motorcycle, and Visitor (V) plates were also issued; all other vehicles were registered under the passenger system. Dealer & Visitor plates did not use radiator seals; motorcycles had a smaller seal. 
  • 194,720 vehicles were registered. 
  • This same 1917 base plate was used through 1922, revalidated each year by a round (17-19) or rectangular (20-22) "radiator seal". Because of theft, numbers were stamped into the 1919 seal, and seals for 1920 were redesigned to show a serial number. Note that the number on the seal did NOT match the number on the base plate. 
  • 1918: 250, 201 registered vehicles.  Seal color: blue on white.
  • 1919: Seal color: white on blue
  • 1920: A second batch of plates was made. Although of the same design as 1917, the plates were slightly smaller, and the "TEX" was a bit thinner. 
  • The smaller plates appeared between 405058  & 417833, but were larger again between 525531 & 547029.
  • 1920: 446,923 registered vehicles.  Seal color: white on black.
  • 1921: Seal color: white on olive green.
  • 1922: 531,608 registered vehicles.  Seal color: black on yellow.
  • Visitor plates discontinued.
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The BOLTHOLE's History of Texas License Plates   |  >complete index<