Skip to main content

One hundred years ago — standardized license plates for vehicles in British Columbia

“On February 29, 1904, the province enacted the Act to regulate the speed and operation of Motor Vehicles on Highways, which required motorists to have displayed on the vehicle their registration number so as to be plainly visible at all times during the daylight, such number to be in plain figures no less than three inches in height.

Homemade license plates in British Columbia
Homemade license plates in British Columbia pre-1913.
Source: Pierre Delacote Collection

Otherwise, motorists were free to be as creative as they wished in the manufacture of their  plates, and there are known to be many different types created. However, the most common was the leather base with attached house numbers.

1913 License plate
1913 License plate in British Columbia

With the number of registered vehicles well into the thousands – and growing – an amendment to the Act to regulate the speed and operation of Motor Vehicles on Highways, was passed in 1913 that allowed the Superintendent of Provincial Police to issue two number plates to each registered vehicle bearing the license number of such motor, the initials ‘B.C.’ and the year of issue. Such number plate shall be of a distinctly different colour for each year … and there shall be at all times a marked contrast between the colour of the number plate and that of the numbers and letters thereon.  Thus marked the beginning of provincial standardization of license plates, with the first plates being made of porcelain ….”

Source: This information was taken from the website A History of British Columbia License Plates which has much interesting information about this aspect of British Columbia History.

The specific information and images above are taken from the pages British Columbia Passenger License Plates 1904 to 1912 and British Columbia Passenger License Plates 1904-2004.

1 Comment

  • The above homemade plate #1143, in this case made in the more familiar fashion of sewing two slices of leather over a metal frame, was issued to William Kilroy from Kilroy Morgan Co. Limited, finest Vancouver clothier for men, on August 15, 1910. The car was a green Napier.

Leave a Reply