Note the added bolt hole
on the 3000 series
passenger plates (left)
A Website for Porcelain License Plate Collectors & Enthusiasts
TOTAL KNOWN PORCELAIN VARIETIES: 9
I: PRE-PROVINCIALS / CITY & COUNTY PLATES
There are no known pre-provincial porcelains from Manitoba. There are also no
cities in the province that are known to have issued porcelain plates.
II: PROVINCIALLY-ISSUED PASSENGER PLATES
Provincially issued license plates first appeared in Canada in 1911, when New
Brunswick, Ontario, and Manitoba all kicked off their respective runs with a dated
porcelain plate. In Manitoba, only motorcycles received distinct plates, as
passenger, dealers, and vehicles for hire all differed only by the number series
they were assigned. Fewer than 1,700 vehicles of all types were registered in the
province in 1910, so planners figured 2,000 plates would be enough to cover the
number of applicants who would need a license plate in 1911. Therefore, the
passenger plates were assigned numbers below 2,000. The 2,000-3,000 number
sequence was assigned to the non-passengers. However, the initial allotment of
numbers quickly ran out, and a decision was made to issue new passenger plates
in the 3000s. Notably, and inexplicably, these late-issue passenger plates were
manufactured with an additional hole at left and right center. A 1913 article in the
"Manitoba Free Press" indicates that there were 2,592 automobiles owned in the
Province in 1911, which would indicate that numbers on the Type 2 base may have
reached as high as 3,600 or so, but numbers are only known up to around #3,200.
From 1912-1914, Manitoba switched to much smaller plates emblazoned with the
date and an attractive Provincial crest at left. These plates were used from April 1
to March 31 of each year. As were the 1911 plates, these were issued in pairs and
numbers began each year starting with #1. The length of the plates did not vary.
In 1912, there were well over 4,000 passenger cars in the Province.
III: PROVINCIALLY-ISSUED NON-PASSENGER ISSUES
There exist a handful of 1911 plates marked with a distinctive “L” suffix, which is
about half the size of the numbers. Another interesting characteristic of these
plates is that they are black instead of blue, like all other Manitoba first issues.
There has been great speculation as to the meaning of this obscure variant.
Some have theorized that the plate could be anything from a Lost plate which
served as a replacement, to a Livery. None of these theories, however, is
substantiated. In fact, we know it cannot be a livery, because liverys and taxicabs
– along with dealers – all received numbers in the 2000 series of the regular
Perhaps the best evidence to explain the mystery comes from documentary
evidence, although it still fails to prove anything. In April of 1911, the “Manitoba
Morning Free Press” reported on the growing importance of the automobile in
the province. After discussing the various classes of vehicles that were all given
the standard blue & white first issue plates, the article states: “Motor cycles were
given a distinct set of numbers with the letter L preceding the numerals so as to
readily distinguish them in the license list from the cars.” This would solve the
mystery if it was not for the fact that the known plates don’t have an “L” prefix –
they have an “L” suffix. Perhaps a last minute design change or a
misinterpretation of the instructions by the manufacturer explains why the plates
differ from the original language of the ordinance. Considering that we know it is
NOT a passenger, dealer, or livery, and that we have evidence motorcycle plates
did in fact carry an “L” on them, it’s probably a good guess that this is, in fact, a
cycle plate. Furthermore, how do we explain the numbers? Considering that
there were just over 500 motorcycles in use in Manitoba in 1913, the idea of there
being a thousands or so in 1911 just doesn't make sense. Perhaps cycles were
assigned numbers in the normal passenger car sequence. Thus, until we can find
a photo of one of these plates hanging off of the back of a motorcycle, this
explanation remains speculative.
From 1912-1914, the only non-passenger plates that were issued are motorcycle
plates. In 1912 & 1913, these are virtual miniatures of the passenger plates,
complete with the Provincial crest. Reports state that there were 514 motorcycles
in the Province in 1912. In 1913, 600 had been issued by June, and by the end of
the year, the total surpassed 800. Unlike the passenger plates, cycles varied by
size depending on the number. The 1912 & 1913 motorcycle plates seem to be
the only cases in all of Canada where a porcelain plate varied depending on the
number of characters in the serial number. This runs counter to the fairly
frequent trend among U.S. porcelains where the size of the plates was variable.
The only other Canadian porcelains that MIGHT vary are the 1912-1914
Saskatchewan cycles, but I have not seen enough of these to conclusively prove
or disprove this theory. 1914 brought about some distinct changes. No longer
did the cycle plates carry the Provincial crest like the passengers, and no longer
did the size of the plate vary. Numbers appear to range up to around #1,200,
although one anomalous 1914 motorcycle with the number 2605 also exists.
“Manitoba Morning Free Press,” April 15, 1911; March 20, 1912; January 1, 1913;
June 21, 1913; December 31, 1913
|Click below for the
Society's census of
1912 plates. Find out
who owned your plate
and what type of
vehicle it was used on!
||6 1/2" x 12"
||4 1/2" x 10"
||Range: 1 - Approx. 4,000
||4 1/2" x 10"
||Range: 1 - Approx. 6,000
||4 1/2" x 10"
||Range: 1 - Approx. 7,100
||White/Blue (Type 1)
||6 1/2" x 12"
||Range: 1 - Approx. 1,999
||White/Blue (Type 2)
||6 1/2" x 12"
||Range: 3000 - Approx 3,200
In 1913, all three-digit
numbers were on longer
Note that in 1912, the
number of digits did not
determine the plate length.
|Manitoba 1911 Dashboard
Disk. These discs bore
numbers which matched
the first issue porcelains
||Range: 1 - Approx. 550
||Range: 1 - Approx. 800
||2 1/2" x 6"
||Range: 1 - Approx. 1,200
|* Most one, two, and three digit plates are on 2 1/2" x 6" bases, but some three digits measure 2 1/2" x 7 1/2"
** One and two digit plates measure 2 1/2" x 6". Three digit plates measure 2 1/2" x 7 1/2"