A Website for Porcelain License Plate Collectors & Enthusiasts
TOTAL KNOWN PORCELAIN VARIETIES: 14
I: PRE-STATES / CITY & COUNTY PLATES
Kansas is a really interesting state for porcelain license plates. Much like Florida,
Louisiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma, Kansas is a state rich in porcelain even
though the state itself never issued any of its own. Instead, the tradition of
Kansas porcelains is entirely due to the trend of cities and counties issuing
plates in the pre-state period. Considering that the state borders Colorado on
the West, Oklahoma on the South, and Missouri on the East – each of which was a
major porcelain producer of its own – perhaps this comes as no surprise.
Kansas’ pre-state period had its share of non-porcelains as well, including
various metal and brass issues, as well as leathers from places such as
Wakeeney, Ottawa, Dodge City, Garfield, Larned and Iola. However, the state’s 14
different known porcelains from 11 separate jurisdictions are what distinguish it
from the perspective of porcelain enthusiasts. In fact, the 11 separate cities and
counties from which porcelains are known makes Kansas the fifth leading state in
this regard – only Florida, Oklahoma, and both North and South Carolina are
known to have produced porcelain license plates from more municipalities.
Although fewer than 20% of them are dated, the Kansas porcelains appear to
range in date from 1909 to about 1912 or 1913 when the state took over the
licensing of vehicles.
Another interesting aspect about Kansas porcelains are that they are clustered in
the Eastern and Southeastern portion of the state. Great Bend lies close to the
center of the state, and only one jurisdiction west of this city – Hays – is known to
have issued a porcelain license plate. This is perhaps due to the proximity of
Missouri which had a tradition of locally-issued porcelain plates dating back to
1904. Kansas municipal governments may have sought to copy their neighbor to
the East and issue porcelains of their own in an effort to generate revenue.
Caney is situated in Montgomery County in the southeast part of the state near
the Oklahoma border, just north of Bartlesville. The town had a population of
around 3,000 in 1913 when the one and only known porcelain plate from the state
was issued. The plate is notable for being one of only 3 known dated porcelains
A town of about 2,000 in the eastern portion of the state, Garnett is the smallest of
all Kansas cities known to have issue a porcelain license plate. Lying in
Anderson County at the confluence of numerous railroads, Garnett’s history of
porcelain license plates is marked by a single undated survivor.
A single surviving plate confirms that this town of about 3,000 issued porcelain
license plates. Girard if the county seat of Crawford County, and lies in the
Southeast part of the state near the Missouri border. Kansas porcelains are
generally marked by conservative color schemes, overwhelmingly white and blue,
but the undated Girard plates is a bright, eye-catching red – the only red
porcelain from the state.
The county seat of Barton County in the central portion of the state, Great Bend
lies on the Arkansas River and was a city of just over 4,000 when it issued
undated porcelain license plates. With numbers ranging into the upper 200s,
there are perhaps 8-10 known survivors of this plate, making it the second most
common Kansas porcelain next to the undated Wichita passenger issue.
Interestingly, among the known plates is a pair, making Great Bend the only city
from the entire state from which we have evidence that pairs were issued.
Lying in Ellis County in the central portion the state, Hays is the Westernmost city
from which porcelain plates are known in Kansas. It had a population of fewer
than 3,000 when porcelain plates were issued.
A small city of fewer than 2500, Humboldt is situated in the Southeast portion of
the state. Like so many other Kansas cities, the surviving example is entirely
unique among collectors.
With a population of around 85,000 in 1912 when the city’s only porcelain plate
was issued, Kansas City is the most populous city in Kansas from which
porcelains are known. The county seat of Wyandotte County, the city is located at
the junction of Missouri and Kansas Rivers in the extreme Eastern portion of the
state across the river from Kansas City, Missouri. A major railroad center as well
as an important center of meatpacking and livestock, as well as flour and
numerous other products, it is no surprise that Kansas City would have had
locally issued plates for such a thriving and populous city. The real question is
why Kansas City, Kansas only seems to have issued plates for the single year of
1912. After all, its sister city across the border had begun in 1911 and continued
issuing porcelains uninterrupted through 1916 and again in 1920. There are
fewer than a half dozen of these distinctive green porcelains marked “KCK,” with
known numbers reaching into the 300s, although I’ve heard rumors of numbers
into the 700s.
McPherson porcelains are very interesting for quite a few different reasons. The
county seat of McPherson County, there were fewer than 4,500 residents in the
city when porcelain plates were introduced. Numbers in the 100s come on an
undated 7” x 12” base bearing simply the word “McPherson.” Later numbers in
the 200 and 300 range are exactly the same format and color, except that the size
of the plates had grown to an astonishing size, over 8 inches in height and 14
inches long. This massive plate is the second largest porcelain license plate of
any kind known in terms of square inches, behind only the first issue Muskogee,
OK plate. Little is known about the difference between these two varieties of
McPherson porcelain – perhaps they indicate different years, different types, or
maybe a change in manufacturer. What is known is that the larger plate is the
only Kansas porcelain bearing a maker’s mark – in this case the Maryland Enamel
& Sign Company of Baltimore. In what appears to be a separate mark applied
within the maker’s mark is a second seal bearing the logo of Crane & Company,
apparently the Baltimore firm’s agent in Topeka. Interestingly, there are no other
porcelain license plates of any kind from any state known to have been
manufactured by the Maryland Enamel & Sign Company. The small McPherson
porcelains are extremely rare, while the larger ones are more common. However,
it appears that the reason for this is that a number of un-issued high numbers
were discovered in the 19XXs stacked back to back in a river bank in X. Even
still, there remain only some 6-8 of these plates in collectors’ hands.
Ottawa is yet another really interesting city in terms of license plates. There is
one solitary surviving example known – a dated 1909 plate. Ottawa is the county
seat of Franklin County in the East-central portion of the state, and had a
population of some 9,000 at the time. Not only is the known Ottawa porcelain one
of very few dated Kansas porcelains, but it’s the earliest dated example. In fact, it’
s one of the earliest dated city or county porcelain license plates in the Western
half of the U.S. Although one can’t be entirely certain since so many plates are
undated, this Ottawa plate appears to be the earliest dated locally-issued
porcelain West of St. Louis. One other notable aspect of the Ottawa porcelain is
that it bears the full date, city name, and state name – a rarity when it comes to the
world of city & county plates. It is the only such example of a porcelain plate from
Kansas, and shares this relatively unusual distinction with only Hailey, ID;
Newport, KY; Dayton, OH; Columbia, SC; the North Carolina county “for hire”
issues from 1922 through 1926, and a few county issues from Florida.
Sedgwick is the home county of the city of Wichita and is the only county in
Kansas known to have issued porcelain license plates. Kansas expert Tom Allen
has discovered that these plates were numbered from 2000 through 2500, of
which three examples have survived in collectors’ hands. Like the Wichita
porcelains, the Sedgwick plates are distinctive for their tri-color appearance. It is
not known precisely what year these undated porcelains were issued, but it is
entirely possible that drivers in Wichita were forced to carry both city and county
porcelains at the same time!
Wichita is the second largest city behind Kansas City to have issued porcelain
license plates in Kansas. Wichita was a center of commercial and railroad activity
and was an important grain market, a productive oil producing region, and one of
the top livestock and meatpacking centers in the U.S. Lying on the Arkansas and
Little Arkansas rivers, Wichita is the county seat of Sedgwick County, and had a
population of about 72,000 when porcelains were issued. Although undated,
research by Kansas plate historian Tom Allen has revealed that these plates were
issued in 1912. The tri-colored plates come in two distinct color schemes, which
most had presumed were from different years. However, Allen’s research cleared
up the mystery, revealing that the more common variety with the “WICHITA”
written in red is the passenger plate, while the more obscure green “WICHITA”
variety is a 1912 dealer plate. While there are only a couple of examples of the
dealer variety, with numbers reaching into at least the 400s, there are perhaps as
many as dozen of the passenger plates. Known numbers of the passengers
range from a low of 187 to a high of nearly 1200, suggesting that there were at
least 1200 private automobiles registered in the city in 1912. A single surviving
motorcycle plate is known as well, but little is known of this rare variety. With its
dealer and cycle issues, Wichita is the only city in all of Kansas from which non-
passenger porcelain license plates are known to exist.
II: STATE-ISSUED PASSENGER PLATES
III: STATE-ISSUED NON-PASSENGER PLATES
There are two strange Kansas porcelains that exist which defy all logic. They
were probably manufactured at some point after 1914 when the state took over
the issuance of license plates with undated embossed metal plates. The colors
and format don't match any of the state-issues, so it is doubtful they are
replacement plates made up an owner to fill in for a lost regular issue. Instead, it
seems more probable that they are samples produced by a porcelain
manufacturer in a failed effort to win the state contract to supply Kansas
residents with plates one year.
||5 1/2" x 11"
||Black, Red & Blue/White
||5 3/4" x 12"
||Black, Green & Blue/White
||5 3/4" x 12"
||5" x 8"
||Blue & Red/White
||5 1/2" x 12"
||8" x 10"
||7" x 12"
||8 1/4" x 14"
||5" x 9"
||6" x 12"
||5" x 12"
||5 1/2" x 10"
||6" x 10"