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Louisiana Archive
TOTAL KNOWN PORCELAIN VARIETIES: 21

I: PRE-STATES / CITY & COUNTY PLATES

The pre-state era in Louisiana is marked by a number of very interesting
porcelain license plates.  Towns issuing porcelains included Alexandria, Houma,
Monroe, New Orleans, Ponchatoula, Shreveport and the Parishes of St. John and
St. Mary.  The earliest porcelains appear to date from 1911, when both Alexandria
and Monroe seem to have begun their respective issuance of plates.  After 1915,
when the state took over the issuance of license plates, only Alexandria
continued to produce porcelain plates.

ALEXANDRIA

Alexandria is the parish seat of Rapides Parish.  Situated on the south bank of the
Red River, Alexandria lies in almost the exact geographic center of the state.  In
an effort to neutralize its strategic position on the river, Alexandria was almost
completely destroyed by Union troops during the Civil War, but the community
rebuilt and was soon a vibrant and bustling city once again.  Incorporated in 1882,
Alexandria had become a prosperous timber-processing and trade center by the
turn of the century.  For years, the earliest known Alexandra plates were two
surviving examples dated 1913.  These were presumed to be the first year of
issue until 2005 when a antique dealer in Louisiana turned up a 1911 issue
manufactured by the Baltimore Enamel and Novelty Company.  The run of
Alexandria porcelains, therefore, is an astounding 10 years, running all the way
through 1920. Interestingly, however, there are missing years in the known run of
Alexandria plates.  I have been unable to verify any existing examples from 1912,
1914 or 1919.  Remarkably, this ten year run of plates makes Alexandria the
longest annual run of porcelain city issues from any state outside of the North
East, where only Worcester, Springfield, Providence, and Rochester issued
longer runs.  In terms of rarity, there are some 30+ known Alexandria porcelains
presently identified, with the earlier years having just a very small handful of
known examples, and later years becoming more common.  I am aware of nine
separate examples of 1920 plates, for instance, when Alexandria porcelains finally
surpassed the 1000 mark.  All Alexandria porcelains appear to have been issued
in singles only.
































HOUMA

The Southern Louisiana city of Houma is the parish seat of Terrebonne Parish.  
Founded in 1934, Houma sits at the convergence of six bayous, and provided
excellent access for commerce and development in the region.  Industry in the
town's early years largely consisted of farming plantations, seafood, fur trading
and logging.  In Louisiana's pre-state license plate era, the city's population was
just shy of 5,000.  The Houma city issue is an interesting porcelain, because it is
the only example from the state of a plate bearing a letter designation.  There are
only two known examples of this rare plate, and both are prefixed with an "H,"
seemingly designating that they are from Houma, although this is oddly repetitive
sine the plates already bear the town name across the top.  This plate probably
dates from 1914 or 1915.  Pairs are not known to exist.












MONROE

Located in Northern Louisiana, Monroe is situated on the Ouachita River and
quickly became an important population center and distribution outlet for the
surrounding farming community.  In the post-Civil War era, agricultural prosperity
and growth continued, and industrial development would soon follow when
natural gas was discovered in the region in 1915, giving the area the title "Natural
Gas Capital of the World."  Monroe plates, like Alexandria, date back to 1911 and
seem to have been issued annually through 1915.  However, I have never been
able to verify a 1912 issue.  There are less than 20 total plates known, and all
appear to have been dug up, with numbers almost entirely in the 200-300 series,
irrespective of year.  One wonders if any of these plates was ever actually issued
and used on a vehicle.  No pairs are known to exist.





















NEW ORLEANS

Founded in 1718 as a strategic port city
five feet below sea level near the juncture
of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico,
New Orleans was under both French and
Spanish rule before finally becoming part
of the United States in 1803. Shortly
thereafter, the Mississippi River trans-
formed the port of New Orleans into the
second wealthiest city (after New York) in
the nation.  The city dominated the
Caribbean as the most active port city and
trade destination for island crops like
sugar cane, rum, tobacco and fruit and it
became the hub of the domestic American
slave trade.  After the Civil War, New
Orleans continued to grow and was a progressive major city at the dawn of the
20th Century, with a burgeoning population approaching 350,000 people when
porcelain license plates were first issued there.  Of all the Louisiana pre-states,
New Orleans plates are by far the most common, with numbers surpassing 2000
each year the plates were issued from 1912 through 1914.  It is also the only city
in Louisiana from which pairs of plates were issued.  There is a total of
somewhere in the area of 75 documented plates over the three years porcelains
were issued in New Orleans, with the 1913 being far and away the most common
for unknown reasons.  ALPCA archives suggest that there were 1,340
registrations in 1913 and 2,081 in 1914.  It is perhaps worth noting that at least
one reproduction of a 1914 plate is known, although it does not fit the style of the
normal 1914 plates.  New Orleans is also the only city in Louisiana from which
non-passenger pre-states are known, as motorcycles were separately licensed in
at least 1913 and 1914, and perhaps in 1912 as well, although I have never
verified the existence of a 1912 cycle.  These are substantially rarer, with only a
handful on examples known in collections.


























PONCHATOULA

Established as a logging town in 1820 and incorporated as a city in 1961,
Ponchatoula is located in South-Eastern Louisiana near Lake Pontchartrain.  The
local economy was based on farming, mostly for local consumption, and
lumbering of the abundant pine forests nearby.  In the early 20th century, going
through Ponchatoula was one of only two ways to get to New Orleans by land,
giving it the title of "Gateway to New Orleans."  Just over 700 people lived in
this small community in 1900.  Strawberry growing - bolstered by the
development of refrigerated rail cars - further boosted the local economy and
was becoming a fundamentally important aspect of the local economy just as
automobile licensing laws began to be passed.  There is one surviving example
of a porcelain plate from the city.












SHREVEPORT

Shreveport is the commercial and cultural
center of Ark-La-Tex, the area where
Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas meet.  
Founded in 1836 by the Shreve Town
Company, a corporation established to
develop a town at the juncture of the
newly navigable Red River and the Texas
Trail, an overland route into the newly
independent Republic of Texas,
Shreveport soon became a center of
steamboat commerce, mostly cotton and
agricultural crops. This prosperity began
to wane by 1914 when disuse led the Red
River to become unnavigable, but just as
this shift was occurring, the city issued its
one and only known porcelain - an
attractive plate with an unusual orange
and white color scheme.  Although
Shreveport was the second largest city in Louisiana in the pre-state era with
somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 residents, the city appears to have
issued porcelain plates in 1914 only.  These plates are extremely scarce, with only
six known surviving examples, despite the fact that the plate numbers suggest
that there may have been as many as 1000 manufactured.











ST. JOHN PARISH

Established in the early 1720s, St. John the Baptist Parish was the second
permanent settlement in Louisiana and is situated approximately 130 miles
upriver from the Gulf of Mexico and 30 miles upriver from the City of New  
Orleans, just East of Lake Pontchartrain.  The Parish is bisected by the
Mississippi River, which provides an important transportation corridor which
supports the heavy industry located in the area.  With its fertile land being about
9 foot above sea level, the region turned out to be excellent farmland, and
settlers grew crops that often fed early New Orleans, which would have
otherwise fallen victim to famine when supply ships failed to arrive from Europe.
Natural resources are abundant, and the Parish produced large amounts of
natural gas, petroleum, sulphur, salt, and fur pelts.  Clays, timber, seafood, and
various agricultural products are also produced in abundance, and sugar
processing was important at the dawn of the 20th century.  St. John the Baptist
Parish had a population of about 12,000 people when plates were issued in 1914.  
There is just one surviving plate to prove that porcelains were issued in St. John,
and some have been led to believe that this plate is from Pennsylvania, due to
the "PA" abbreviation of the word "Parish" as used on the plate.  Along with St.
Mary, these are the only two examples of Parish (county) issues, rather than city
issues.












ST. MARY PARISH

Today's St. Mary Parish was once part of Louisiana's Attakapas County.  In 1811,
the Legislature of the Territory of New Orleans divided the Attakapas Region,
thereby founding St. Mary Parish. Its geographical position and proximity to the
Great Atchafalaya River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico, coupled with its abundant
wealth of natural resources, played a major role in shaping the industrial
dynamics of the parish.  In the mid-19th century, St. Mary was a prominent sugar
producing region in Louisiana, which carried over well into the 20th century.  The
Parish boasted some 35,000 inhabitants when plates were first issued there in
1914.  Like the St. John Parish plate, this plate is unusual for being one of only
two examples of Parish-issued porcelains from Louisiana.  Also like the St. John
plate, this is the only surviving example of its kind.











II: STATE-ISSUED PASSENGER PORCELAINS

None Issued.

III: STATE-ISSUED NON-PASSENGER PORCELAINS

None Issued.
1911
Passenger
Black/White
5 1/2" x 10"
1913
Passenger
Black/White
5 1/2" x 10"
1915
Passenger
Black/White
6" x 11"
1916
Passenger
Black/White
6" x 11"
1917
Passenger
Black/White
6" x 11"
1918
Passenger
White/Blue
6" x 11"
1920
Passenger
White/Blue
6" x 11"
Undated
Passenger
Blue/White
6" x 12"
1911
Passenger
Blue/White
5 1/2" x 10"
1913
Passenger
White/jBlue
5 1/2" x 10"
1914
Passenger
White/Blue
5 1/2" x 10"
1915
Passenger
White/Blue
5 1/2" x 10"
1912
Passenger
Blue/White
6 1/2" x 13 3/4"
1913
Passenger
White/Blue
6 1/2" x 14"
1913
Motorcycle
White/Blue
5" x 8"
1914
Passenger
Blue/White
6 1/2" x 14"
1914
Motorcycle
Blue/White
5" x 8"
1915
Passenger
Blue/White
6" x 12"
1914
Passenger
White/Red-Orange
5" x 14"
1914
Passenger
White/Blue
6" x 12"
1914
Passenger
White/Blue
4" x 10 1/2"
1914 Shreveport, LA
Courtesy of the
LSUS Archives - Noel Memorial Library
1913 New Orleans, LA