PORCELAIN PLATES.NET
A Website for Porcelain License Plate Collectors & Enthusiasts
Government Issues Archive
FORT MCHENRY
CHIEF QUARTERMASTER

Please see Maryland archive
(Oddballs Section)
HERE.
TOTAL KNOWN PORCELAIN VARIETIES: 16

There are a number of government-issued or military plates that cannot be
associated with any specific state.  This archive page presents all known
examples of such plates.  If a military or government porcelain is state-specific,
such as the Ft. McHenry, Maryland plate or the West Point toppers, you will find a
brief reference to it below shaded in gray with a link to the page where you can
find more detailed information.
















UNITED STATES
CHIEF QUARTERMASTER

This plate is made on the same base as the early California porcelain license
plates manufactured by the California Metal Enamelling Company from 1916
through 1919.  It seems likely that this plate way well have been used in California,
but the fact that it does not have any state identification on it makes its placement
here in the Government Archive more appropriate.  Like the Fort McHenry plate
described above, "CQM" is presumed to stand for Chief Quartermaster.  Note that
California did have a history of issuing Quartermaster porcelains in passenger,
Trailer and Motorcycle versions - but all of these plates have both a "CAL"
designation as well as the abbreviation "QMC" rather than "CQM."
















UNITED STATES ARMY
CORPS OF ENGINEERS

The United States Army Corps of Engineers is a federal agency designed to
provide engineering services to the United States.  Founded in 1775, the Corps
works on the planning, design, construction and operation of dams, military
facilities, etc.  There are two known examples of porcelain license plates marked
CofE, which most collectors believe signifies the Corps of Engineers.  2500
numbers separate the two known survivors, and the highest numbered one nears
4,000, so it is clear that quite a few of these elusive porcelains were
manufactured and used on vehicles belonging to the Corps.












UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
BUREAU OF ENTOMOLOGY

The Bureau of Entomology was a unit within the Federal government of the United
States from 1894 to 1934.  It developed from a section of the Department of
Agriculture which had been working on entomological research and allied issues
relating to insects.  There are two surviving examples of a porcelain license plate
issued by this obscure Bureau, both of which are slightly different, although not
significantly enough to constitute distinct collectible types.  The #1 plate pictured
at left has a period after the word "ENTOMOLOGY," whereas the #8A plate
pictured below does not.  It is also notable that the plates varied in length
depending on the plate number.










UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

The United States Department of Commerce is the Cabinet department of the
United States government concerned with promoting economic growth. Originally
created in 1903, it did not become known as the Department of Commerce until
1913.  The mission of the department is to "promote job creation and improved
living standards for all Americans by creating an infrastructure that promotes
economic growth, technological competitiveness, and sustainable development."
Among its tasks are gathering economic and demographic data for business and
government decision-making, issuing patents and trademarks, and helping to set
industrial standards.  Nothing is known about the single surviving porcelain
issued by the Department of Commerce, but the fact that it bears this wording
indicates that it can be no earlier than 1913.  The plate's most notable feature is
the extremely high number it bears - #1,639.











UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

The National Park Service is the United States federal agency that manages all
National Parks, many National Monuments, and other conservation and historical
properties.  It was created on August 25, 1916 by Congress through the National
Park Service Organic Act in order to "conserve the scenery and the natural and
historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the
same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the
enjoyment of future generations." It is an agency of the United States Department
of the Interior.

In terms of government issued porcelain license plates, the National Park Service
plates are marked by both extreme rarity and relative abundance.  On the rare
side is a single known "U.S. N.P.S." porcelain that surfaced on EBAY in August of
2009.  One of the distinguishing features of this plate is the fact that it is marked
on the reverse with the maker's stamp of Silica Signs in St. Louis, the only
porcelain license plate of any kind known to have been made by this company.  
But in addition to the manufacturer's name, there is the curious mark "MAY 24."  It
seems extremely unlikely that the maker would have bothered recording the day
of the month, suggesting instead that this plate might have been manufactured in
May of 1924.  Considering that it is unique among collectors, I would hazard to say
that there were not some 1,200 of these plates issued, as the numbers suggest.  
Perhaps this type began at #1000.

In spite of this impossibly rare National Park Service porcelain type, there are
other varieties of Park Service plates that are far more numerous.  In fact, the two
known U.S.D.I porcelains are far and away the most common variety of
government-issued porcelain license plates that collectors can hope to find.  
Whereas all other plates listed on this archive page are unique or one of just a
tiny handful, I've personally documented a dozen surviving examples and
estimate there to be perhaps two dozen of these U.S.D.I porcelains known in
collectors' hands.  These plates were issued in pairs and ran from #1 up to nearly
#13,000.  

It is also notable that there are two distinct varieties.  The first style is the most
common, with two slot holes at top and six bolt holes.  The second variety was
manufactured with slots at both top and bottom and has no bolt holes
whatsoever.  These two varieties do not seem to fall into any particular number
spans and overlap one another, suggesting that they were being produced and
issued simultaneously.  More subtle differences are known, too, such as plates
having oval or rectangular slots, but this is so minor as not to constitute a
separate collectible variety of plate.  It should be noted that later on, identical
looking plates were also produced on embossed metal bases.


















In addition, a small version of these plates also exists.  
For years, it was unclear exactly what sort of vehicles
these plates were used on.  Some presumed they
might have adorned boats (the National Park Service
is known to have produced boat plates later on).  
However, National Park plate specialist Lee Vander
Heide poured through the archives at the Yellowstone
National Park Heritage Research Center and
uncovered the blueprint of the original plans drawn up
for these plates (see photo at right).  The blueprint
proves in no uncertain terms that these plates were in
fact designed as "motorcycle number plates."  The "P"
prefix is a bit of a mystery, perhaps referring to Parks,
although such a designation would have been
needlessly redundant.  In any event, only a single
example of these fascinating fender-shaped porcelain
license plates has survived in collectors' hands today.
It is the only example of a porcelain motorcycle plate of
any kind issued by the Federal government.













UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
STATE EMERGENCY CONSERVATION WORK

The Emergency Conservation Work Act was signed
into law in 1933. One of the first of President Franklin
D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" programs, it created jobs
for the unemployed in such areas as forestry and
flood prevention and paved the way for the creation
of the Civilian Conservation Corps.   He proposed to
recruit thousands of unemployed young men, enroll
them in a peacetime army, and send them into battle
against destruction and erosion of our natural
resources. Before it was over, over three million
young men engaged in a massive salvage operation,
the most popular experiment of the New Deal.  State
ECW camps were administered by the state
authorities, but the technical supervisors and project
superintendents were paid out of federal funds. The
states were given a specific allotment and were
responsible for dividing these funds among the
various camps under their jurisdiction. Park
superintendents administered the overall ECW
program within their parks and, on occasion, in
nearby state parks.

Looking very much like the National Park Service plates described above, there
are a few surviving examples of a Department of the Interior porcelain with the
designation "State E.C.W," indicating their use on vehicles being used for State
Emergency Conservation Work.  One notable aspect of these unusual plates is
that they bear extremely high numbers between about 5,200 and 6,200.











UNITED STATES INDIAN AGENCY

The United States Office of Indian Affairs was created by Congress, which gave to
the President the authority to appoint Indian agents.  Agencies were centers
through which the office administered and maintained relations with one or more
tribes.  Until 1849, the office was under the War Department, thereafter under the
Department of the Interior.  There is one surviving example of a porcelain plate
issued to the Indian Agency, and it remains unclear if this plate was issued to a
specific Indian Agency (of which there were many throughout the country), or
whether it was created and used on a vehicle belonging to the Federal
Government.  The date of this plate is a mystery, but gives every appearance of
being from the teens or twenties.  One notable aspect of this unusual black & red
plate is that it was manufactured by the Chicago-based Burdick sign company.  
Not only is this Indian Agency plate the only porcelain license plate of any kind
known to have been manufactured by Burdick, but it is notable that the company's
maker's mark is inscribed right on the front of the plate - in the lower right corner.











U.S.I.D

This plate is a mystery.  A pair of plates - #22 - are the only surviving examples of
whatever this plate is.  At first glance, one might suspect that these plates were
issued to vehicles operated by the Department of the Interior.  However, the
acronym is wrong, as there is no such thing as the "Interior Department" as the "I.
D." on these porcelains would suggest.  Others have theorized that these plates
might have been used by the Indian Department.  Whatever the case, it seems
likely that this is a government issue of some sort.











UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

The United States Marine Corps was created in 1775.  Its original purpose was to
provide naval infantry and to conduct amphibious operations from the sea onto
land. Since its inception, the Marine Corps has been recognized for combat
prowess, and the Corps' role has been expanded significantly over the years.  
There are two surviving porcelain license plates that was apparently used on
vehicles owned by the Marine Corps.  Interestingly, these two plates are very
different from one another and constitute varying types.  The first type has block
letters and numbers, whereas the second has smooth, rounded characters.  
Thesesmall blue & white plates appear to date from the early 20th century -
perhaps the '20s or '30s



























UNITED STATES ORDINANCE DEPARTMENT

The Ordnance Corps is a combat service support branch of the U.S. Army whose
stated mission is to "support the development, production, acquisition and
sustainment of weapons systems and munitions, and to provide explosive
ordnance disposal, during peace and war, to provide superior combat power to
current and future forces of the United States Army.”  Originally established in
1776 as the Board of War and Ordnance, it was reorganized as a department by
Congress in 1812.  The Ordinance Department has provided fundamentally
important contributions to all American Wars beginning with the War of 1912 and
expanded its roles even further during the first and second World Wars.  It is
unclear when the undated Ordinance Department porcelains were issued, but
were likely produced for use in one or the other of these World Wars.  There are a
few of these plates known to have survived, including a pair.  Numbers range into
the lower 300s.












YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
PUBLIC UTILITY OPERATOR

Yellowstone National Park became the world's first national park in 1872.  Located
mostly in the state of Wyoming, the park extends into Montana and Idaho.  Known
for its wildlife and geothermal features, such as the ever popular Old Faithful
geyser, Yellowstone spans an area of 3,472 square miles, comprising lakes,
canyons, rivers and mountain ranges.  Yellowstone Lake is the largest high-
altitude lake in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the
largest supervolcano on the continent.  Hundreds of species of mammals, birds,
fish and reptiles have been documented in the park, including grizzlies, wolves,
and free-ranging herds of bison and elk.  As for porcelain license plates, there is
one surviving porcelain variety that is known to have been used in Yellowstone.  
These plates, used on vehicles run by Public Utility Operators, are white on green
and are in the same general format as the National Park Service plates issued by
the Department of the Interior.  In fact, they even come in the same two variants
as the USDI plates - six holes with top slots only and no holes with top & bottom
slots.  Apparently, these plates were manufactured by the same company, and
probably were being used around the same time.  In fact, it is not unreasonable to
presume that the vehicle bearing these Yellowstone porcelains also had to carry
the reverse color National Park plate as well.  About a half-dozen of these plates
still exist today.
UNITED STATES ARMY
40th DIVISION

Please see California archive
(Oddballs Section)
HERE.
Undated
Unknown
Red/White
Unknown
Undated
Unknown
White/Blue
Unknown
Undated
Unknown
Green/White
5 1/2" x 12"
1924?
Passenger
Green/White
5 1/2" x 12"
Undated
Passenger, Type 1
Green/White
5 1/2" x 12"
Undated
Passenger, Type 2
Green/White
5 1/2" x 12"
Undated
Unknown
White/Blue
Unknown
Undated
Unknown, Type 1
White/Blue
Unknown
Undated
Unknown, Type 2
White/Blue
Unknown
Undated
Unknown
Red/Black
6" x 12"
Undated
Unknown
Blue/White
5" x 15 1/2"
Undated
Unknown
Black/White
5 1/2" x 17"
UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY AT WEST POINT

Please see New York archive
(Oddballs Section)
HERE.
UNITED STATES NAVY

Please see New York archive
(Oddballs Section)
HERE.
WINDSOR LOCKS AIR BASE

Please see Connecticut archive
(Oddballs Section)
HERE.
CLEVELAND DIVISION
QUARTERMASTER CORPS

Please see Ohio archive
(Oddballs Section)
HERE.
Undated
Motorcycle
Green/White
6" x 4"
Blueprint for USDI
Motorcycle Plates
Bureau of Entomology
Plate #1
There are numerous
fascinating
government-issued  
porcelain "plates" that
were clearly used on
vehicles, but which bear
no number.  The lack of a
registration number on
this sub-set of plates
excludes them from the
porcelainplates.net
archive, but I present
some of them in this
sidebar for reference
and curiosity
ALMOST PLATES...
Undated
Passenger, Type 1
White/Green
5 1/2" x 12"
Undated
Passenger, Type 2
White/Green
5 1/2" x 12"
USDI State E.C.W. Porcelain
Courtesy of the Washington State
Archives: Photographs of Park
Development, 1931-1938
1916-19?
Unknown
Blue/White
Unknown