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100  Years   of  
Texas   License   Plates

The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of
the first license plate issued by the State of Texas

See how we are celebrating

There are 420
plate designs available
in Texas.

License plate sales generate revenue
for a variety of state programs.

Find Out More

The State Prison System

began manufacturing license plates in 1935.

 

See full story

About

 

Texas has been registering motor vehicles since 1907 when the Legislature first authorized it. The goal of registration was, and remains, to collect fees to fund the building and maintenance of public roadways. License plates served as proof that the vehicle owner had paid registration fees for the privilege of using the State’s roads. Originally, license plates were solely the responsibility of the vehicle owner and could be made of any number of materials from leather to porcelain to wood. It wasn’t until 1917 that license plate designs were standardized and issued by the State.

Over the years the appearance of license plates has changed greatly. There have been over five dozen different general issue plate designs issued since 1917. In addition to the general issue plate, these days you will also spot specialty plates on our roadways. Specialty plates feature exclusive designs and are often used to raise funds for causes and identify various organizations. They can also be personalized with a unique alphanumeric pattern. In Texas, there’s a plate for every passion!

Through the Years

Plate History Highlights

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    License Plates: A Humble Beginning

    The first Texas automobile license plate was issued in 1907 for a motor bus owned by W.B. Chenoweth of Colorado City.
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    The First Official Texas License Plates: The Early Years

    The first official Texas license plates were made of sheet iron featuring white numbers on a dark blue background.
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    Plates and Prisoners

    In 1933, the Texas Legislature passed a law authorizing the Texas Prison System in Huntsville to manufacture the state’s license plates.
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    Plates with Personality

    In 1965 the Legislature passed the Prestige License Plate Act which allowed motorists to personalize their license plates.
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    Specialty License Plate Template

    All specialty plate designs must meet TxDMV guidelines set in our template.
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    Plate Milestones

    Much has changed in the 100 years since the license plate was first created.

The Specialty Plate Process


The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles makes available a number of specialty plates for purchase. For a complete list of currently available plates, please visit the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website.

  • Request
    1
  • Design
    2
  • Review
    3
  • Order
    4
  • Print
    5
  • Delivery
    6
Request: Any member of the public, non-profit organization, or for-profit entity may propose specialty license plate designs. Depending upon the type of design requested, proposals are submitted to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, the Texas Legislature, or the authorized specialty plate vendor.
Design: TxDMV works with interest groups, other state agencies, and individual members of the public to design new specialty plates. This may involve TxDMV simply obtaining permission to use an existing image, working with artists on original designs, or designing plates in-house.
Review: All proposed designs are reviewed by TxDMV staff to ensure they meet established legibility, reflectivity, and graphic standards. For plate proposals that are submitted directly to the department, the TxDMV Board must also review and approve the design during a public meeting.
Order: Depending on the selected design, individuals may order their specialty plates through the TxDMV website, through the specialty plate vendor, or by visiting their local county tax office.
Printing: All specialty license plates are printed on demand by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The plates are made by offenders at the Wynne Correctional Unit in Huntsville, Texas.
Delivery: Specialty license plates are delivered to the applicant’s county tax office so that the vehicle can be registered to the new plate.

Specialty Plate Use


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PROFESSIONAL SPORTS

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PERSONALIZED PLATES

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Downloads

Resources

The documents below provide additional information on Texas license plates and their history.

TITLE FILE TYPE
100 Years of Texas License Plates PDF
Texas License Plate Milestones PDF
Texas License Plate Sequence History PDF
Senate Resolution 672, 85(R) PDF
House Concurrent Resolution 124, 85(R) PDF
Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Press Release – 100 Years of Texas License Plates PDF
80 Years of Texas License Plate History PDF
Copyright © Texas Department of Motor Vehicles All rights reserved.