PORCELAIN PLATES.NET
A Website for Porcelain License Plate Collectors & Enthusiasts
Massachusetts Archive - Part 1
TOTAL KNOWN PORCELAIN VARIETIES: 120

I: PRE-STATES / CITY & COUNTY PLATES

Due to Massachusetts' remarkably early issuance of license plates in 1903, there
are no pre-states that exist from the state.  However, there are a remarkably large
number of cities in Massachusetts that issued porcelain license plates.  In fact,
there were as many porcelain producing jurisdictions in Massachusetts as in all of
the rest of New England combined.  These plates stretch out over a period of 28
years, from 1912 through 1940, and were used to license everything from
automobiles and buses to milk carts, jobbers, vendors and vegetable peddlers.  
Although there are an amazing 52 different porcelain varieties known, each is
remarkably scarce with no more than a handful of surviving examples of any
particular plate.

CLINTON

The Town of Clinton was a thriving community built on milling and textile
manufacturing with a population of over 3,000 people when it was incorporated in
1850.  Straddling the valley of the south branch of the Nashua River in central
Massachusetts, Clinton is the site of the Wachusett Reservoir, formed by
damming the river in 1905 to provide drinking water for the City of Boston.  This
engineering feat brought further prosperity and prominence to the town.  For
years, it was thought that porcelain license plates were only issued in Clinton in
1914-15 and 1915-16, but in 2008 a previously unknown 1916-17 version surfaced.  
Clinton porcelains were issued in five varieties - Hackney, Jobber, Junk, Milk and
Peddler.  The Hackney, Jobber, Junk and Milk porcelains are manufactured in
exactly the same format as the Peddler plates, except that they were produced on
a smaller sized base.  The expiration date of these classes of plates is interesting
as well.  The Peddler, Jobber and Junk plates all expired on May 1, but the 1915 &
1916 Milk plates expired a month later, on June 1.  Most unusual of all, however,
the 1917 Milk plate turned up by Massachusetts collector Alan Young in 2013
expired on May 30 - a different date from all the others, including the prior two
year of Milk plates!

Hackney

In 2016, the first Hackney variety from Clinton showed up, becoming the fifth class
of vehicle known to have been issued porcelain license plates by the city of
Clinton.  These plates may well have been issued in 1915 and 1917 as well, but
this is the only one to have surfaced so far.










Jobber

Jobber plates are interesting because they are the only porcelain license plates
from any state or local jurisdiction in the U.S. to have ever used that peculiar
terminology on a license plate.  We know of two consecutively numbered 1915
examples.









Junk

Like the Hackney and Jobber plates, there is only one known year that has
survived to represent Clinton's issuance of Junk porcelains.  This lone 1915
example surfaced in 2013.









Milk

Clinton Milk Licenses are the only class of porcelain in which the designation was
changed from "Licensed" to "License."  These plates are quite scarce, but they
are known from all three years.













Peddler

The Peddler plates are by far the most common with perhaps a half-dozen of each
of the first two years known in collectors' hands.  They are known to have been
produced in pairs, and numbers range up to about 75 in 1914-15 and 100 in 1915-
16.  The Milk, Jobber and Junk plates, on the other hand, are rare, with only a few
known in collections to document their existence.  It should be
















DEDHAM

The city of Dedham is the county seat of Norfolk County just south of Boston.  
Dedham was a small town of around 10,000 inhabitants in 1920, the time at which
the only license plate known from the city is thought to have been issued.  This
undated plate is in an unusual format with a single slot hole at top center.  It is
unclear what type of vehicle it adorned.











FALL RIVER

Located in the historic Southcoast region of Massachusetts, Fall River was first
settled in 1670 and incorporated in 1803.  By the turn of the century, the growing
city was an important manufacturing center.  In fact, from the 1870s until the
1920s, Fall River was the second largest center in the United States for the
manufacture of cotton textiles behind only Manchester, New Hampshire.  In 1920,
the city's population peaked at over 120,000.  In terms of porcelain license plates,
we know that Bus plates were issued for several years and we strongly suspect
that a long run of Milk plates were issued by the city as well.

Milk

For a long time now, there has been a series of small, colorful porcelain license
plates known marked simply with a number and the word "MILK" across the top.  
Although we can't positively state that these plates were issued in Fall River,
there are several pieces of convincing circumstantial evidence that point to this
fact.  One large grouping of #3 plates was found in a barn in Massachusetts.  Then
in 2006 an elderly woman who sold two of these plates on EBAY said that she
lived in Fall River and that not only did she find them locally, but that she actually
recalled the plates being used in that city when she was five or six years old.  
Then in 2017, a digger in Fall River unearthed a 1920 plate and described the dig
site as being at the base of a hill upon which a Dairy once sat.  So, it seems like a
pretty good bet that these milk plates are from Fall River.  We know that these
plates began as early as 1911, were issued through at least 1929, and came in
pairs.  They are extremely scarce with numbers typically barely reaching double-
digits.  There are no more than two or three of any given year that have survived.  
The last year yet to be seen was 1912, but in 2017, a pair of 1912s showed up in an
auction in Indiana attached to a wooden wagon along with pairs of 1911s and
1913s as well.


















































Motor Bus

In addition to the Milk plates above, Motor Bus porcelains were issued in Fall
River right around the time the city was experiencing growth in the early 20th
century.  It is unclear just how many years these plates existed, but there are
three surviving years known.  These little plates are the smallest known
porcelains to have been issued anywhere in Massachusetts.













HOLYOKE

Situated on the banks of the Connecticut River, Holyoke had few inhabitants until
the construction of a dam and the Holyoke Canal System in the mid-19th century,
and the subsequent construction of water-powered mills, particularly paper mills.
At one point, the city boasted more than 25 paper mills, and the population
exploded from fewer than 5,000 in 1885 to over 60,000 in 1920.  It was at some
point during this growth - probably the '20s - that Holyoke began to license
Vegetable Peddlers with porcelain license plates.  These undated plates are quite
unusual, were issued in pairs, and actually come in two variants - one with the
wording "Vegetable Peddler" and the other with the addition of the abbreviation
"etc." afterwards.   It is unclear if these plates were issued for more than one
year, but it does appear from surviving examples that the "etc." version was the
second type and was introduced once plates hit the mid-300s.











LYNN

Lynn is a city on the Atlantic Ocean just north of Boston.  An early colonial center
dating back to the early 17th century, Lynn's most notable attribute came in the
early 20th century when it was the world's leading manufacturer of shoes, with
over 200 factories producing a million pairs a day at its height.  It was during this
time of growth for the city of Lynn that the only known porcelain license plates
were issued.  Interestingly, Lynn was a city collectors didn't even know issued
plates until a lone example showed up on EBAY in 2016.  It's very possible that
they city issued porcelains for others years as well, but they have yet to be seen.










NEW BEDFORD & FAIRHAVEN

New Bedford is a city on the south coast of Massachusetts located about 50 miles
south of Boston.  Nicknamed the “Whaling City,” the town of New Bedford started
coming to prominence in the 1790s, and officially became a city in 1847.  At this
same time, whaling came to be the city’s primary economic strength and would
carry the town’s prosperity for much of the century as the city staked its claim as
one of the most important whaling ports in the world.  As whaling began to
decline, New Bedford was able to remain wealthy because of its textile industry
which grew large enough to sustain the city's economy into the new century.  By
1900, the city’s population surpassed 60,000 and would double again by 1920.  It
was during this time that the only known license plate from the area is known.  
Notably, this plate reads “New Bedford & Fairhaven” and represents the close
historical relationship between the two cities.  Fairhaven separated from New
Bedford in 1812 but the two cities share the New Bedford Harbor and have always
been economically tied to one another.  In this case, the plate was issued to a
vehicle belonging to the Shellfish Commission.  The Board of Shellfish
Commissioners came into being in 1911 and was tasked with granting licenses to
people who wanted to collect and sell mollusks.  This particular plate dates to
1912-13 and is one of 8 different jurisdictions in Massachusetts known to have
issued porcelain license plates.    











SPRINGFIELD

Springfield is a very old city, first settled in 1636 on the floodplains of the
Connecticut River in Southwestern Massachusetts.  In the 19th century,
Springfield was a prosperous manufacturing center noted for its Victorian
mansions.  In 1893, the Duryea brothers of Springfield built the first commercial
gasoline powered automobile.  Indian motorcycles were produced in the city as
well starting in 1901 and continuing for a half-century.  And from 1921 to 1931 a
Rolls-Royce factory in Springfield built nearly 3,000 Silver Ghosts and Phantoms
before production was halted by the Great Depression.  Considering the city's
history with early transportation, it is perhaps not surprising that porcelains would
have been produced there.  

Passenger

In fact, Springfield is known for a run of porcelain plates that stretched at least 13
years, from 1915-16 through 1927-28.  Even numbered years were white on blue
and odd numbered years were the reverse - blue on white.  Oddly enough, the
first issue is the most common, with a half-dozen or so known 1915-16 plates
ranging up to nearly #1,000.  Something must have changed beginning in 1916-17,
for the remainder of the Springfield porcelains have substantially lower numbers
and are much rarer - many of them unique.  Although the 1915-16 plates reached
at least #939, not one of the subsequent years of Springfield porcelains is known
with a number over #291.












































Vegetable Peddler

In addition to the more familiar Springfield porcelains described above, there is
one example of a Vegetable Peddler plate from the city.  This plate is undated, but
based on the other city-issued porcelains from Massachusetts, it seems fair to
presume that this plate dates from the '20s or early '30s.










WESTFIELD

Westfield is located in western Massachusetts in Hampden County along the
state's southern border with Connecticut.  The town was incorporated in 1669 and
was the westernmost settlement in the colony of Massachusetts for the next half-
century.  In the 19th century, Westfield transformed itself from an agricultural
town into a thriving industrial city, producing numerous items including buggy
whips, thus earning Westfield its nickname - "Whip City."  But in the second half of
the 20th century its manufacturing base was eroded by wage competition in the
U.S. Southeast, then overseas.  There are two surviving examples of porcelain
license plates from Westfield.  Interestingly, both are from the same year.  

Unknown

The first variety has no identification as to the usage but it seems unlikely that
this was a full-fledged license that all vehicles in the city were required to carry.









Vendor

The second Westfield porcelain is a vendor version that showed up on EBAY in
2011 and is remarkable in several ways.  For one, it is the only known porcelain
from the state to bear the term "vendor."  Secondly, the plate's construction is of
such a thin gauge metal that the plate can be lightly bent from side to side, which
is highly untypical for porcelain license plates.  Finally, the age of both of these
plates is quite new by porcelain standards.  They are the latest known porcelains
from Massachusetts by a full decade and one of only a tiny handful of jurisdictions
in the country from which porcelains were still in use in the '40s.











WORCESTER

Located in central Massachusetts, Worcester had a colorful history in the nation's
early period.  It was a munitions depot during the Revolutionary War and later the
site of the first woman executed in the new American republic.  Furthermore,
known for innovation in commerce, industry, education, and social thought,
Worcester can claim a historic role as the birthplace of the American Industrial
Revolution.  The city remained an important industrial and commercial center into
the 20th century when license plates were first making their appearance.  
Worcester actually began the issuance of porcelains quite early compared to
other Massachusetts cities known to have issued plates.  In fact, its first year of
issuance was 1912-13 - making this plate the earliest known locally-issued
porcelain license plate from the state.  Plates were issued in both passenger and
Hawker & Peddler varieties.

Passenger

The first variety of porcelains from Worcester are regular car plates.  Notably, the
earliest known year - 1912-13 - just surfaced in 2011 and is unlike all of the other
Worcester plates to follow in that it bears the double-year date "1912-13" rather
than the "To May 1" wording that began the following year.  These distinctive and
attractive diamond-shaped porcelain license plates complete with borders and
fancy numerals are highly sought after by collectors.   

These plates came in pairs and were issued annually from 1912-13 all the way
through at least 1929-30 before the city switched to embossed metal issues.  In
fact, Worcester's 18-year run of porcelains marks it as a city with one of the
longest runs of porcelain license plates ever.  In fact, only the 25 year run of Milk
Licenses thought to hail from the city of Schenectady, NY were issued over a
longer span of time.  When a 1919-20 version showed up in 2016, it was one of
only two years yet to be seen.  Now, the lone missing year that collectors have not
yet observed is 1921-22.  Numbers in most years appear to have neared the #1000
mark, and the 1916s, 17s and 18s all seem to be among the most common.



























































Hawker & Peddler

Simultaneous with the issuance of the diamond shaped passenger porcelains,
Worcester also issued a separate set of rectangular plates to the city's Hawkers &
Peddlers.  Like the passenger issues, Hawker & Peddler plates came in pairs.  
Thus, presumably from the first issue in 1912-13, and extending all the way
through the end of the city's 18-year porcelain run in 1929-30, collectors are faced
with the challenge of acquiring two different plates for each year!  It is possible
that the Hawker & Peddler version ceased slightly earlier than the diamond-
shaped passengers did.  This is based on the existence of the oval plate pictured
at left.  It is unclear exactly what this is, but it might be an indication that the
porcelains were discontinued after 1927-28 and replaced with these metal
versions.  The Hawker & Peddler plates are substantially rarer than the passenger
plates, with numbers rarely surpassing two digits.  The highest numbered Hawker
& Peddler plate I've seen is #267.

Due to the size of the Massachusetts archive, I have split it into two parts.  
Part 2 contains information on the following:

II: STATE-ISSUED PASSENGER PLATES
III: STATE-ISSUED NON-PASSENGER PLATES
IV: ODDBALL PORCELAINS
FURTHER READING

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 OF THE
MASSACHUSETTS ARCHIVE
1914-15
Licensed Peddler
White/Blue
6" x 7 1/2"
1915-16
Licensed Peddler
Blue/White
6" x 7 1/2"
1916-17
Licensed Peddler
White/Red
6" x 7 1/2"
1916-17
Licensed Motor Bus
Black/Yellow
3" x 4"
1921-22
Licensed Motor Bus
White/Blue
3" x 4"
1924-25
Licensed Motor Bus
Black/Red
3" x 4"
Undated
Vegetable Peddler
Red/White
4" x 6"
Undated
Vegetable Peddler, Etc.
Red/White
4" x 6"
1915-16
Passenger
White/Blue
4" x 6"
1916-17
Passenger
Blue/White
4" x 6"
1917-18
Passenger
White/Blue
4" x 6"
1918-19
Passenger
Blue/White
4" x 6"
1919-20
Passenger
White/Blue
4" x 6"
1920-21
Passenger
Blue/White
4" x 6"
1921-22
Passenger
White/Blue
4" x 6"
1922-23
Passenger
Blue/White
4" x 6"
1923-24
Passenger
White/Blue
4" x 6"
1924-25
Passenger
Blue/White
4" x 6"
1925-26
Passenger
White/Blue
4" x 6"
1926-27
Passenger
Blue/White
4" x 6"
1927-28
Passenger
White/Blue
4" x 6"
Undated
Vegetable Peddler
Red/White
4" x 6"
1913-14
Hawker & Peddler
White/Brown
4" x 6"
1914-15
Hawker & Peddler
Black/Orange
4" x 6"
1915-16
Hawker & Peddler
White/Blue
4" x 6"
1916-17
Hawker & Peddler
White/Red
4" x 6"
1917-18
Hawker & Peddler
White/Green
4" x 6"
1920-21
Hawker & Peddler
White/Blue
4" x 6"
1921-22
Hawker & Peddler
White/Red
4" x 6"
1922-23
Hawker & Peddler
White/Green
4" x 6"
1923-24
Hawker & Peddler
White/Brown
4" x 6"
1924-25
Hawker & Peddler
White/Orange
4" x 6"
1925-26
Hawker & Peddler
White/Blue
4" x 6"
1927-28
Hawker & Peddler
White/Green
4" x 6"
1912-13
Passenger
White/Green
5 1/4" x 8"
1913-14
Passenger
White/Brown
5 1/4" x 8"
1914-15
Passenger
Black/Orange
5 1/4" x 8"
1915-16
Passenger
White/Blue
5 1/4" x 8"
1916-17
Passenger
White/Red
5 1/4" x 8"
1917-18
Passenger
White/Green
5 1/4" x 8"
1918-19
Passenger
White/Violet
5 1/4" x 8"
1919-20
Passenger
White/Orange
5 1/4" x 8"
1920-21
Passenger
White/Blue
5 1/4" x 8"
1922-23
Passenger
White/Green
5 1/4" x 8"
1923-24
Passenger
White/Brown
5 1/4" x 8"
1924-25
Passenger
White/Orange
5 1/4" x 8"
1925-26
Passenger
White/Blue
5 1/4" x 8"
1926-27
Passenger
White/Red
5 1/4" x 8"
1927-28
Passenger
White/Green
5 1/4" x 8"
1928-29
Passenger
White/Brown
5 1/4" x 8"
1929-30
Passenger
White/Orange
5 1/4" x 8"
Undated
Health Department
White/Blue
5" x7"
By 1931-32, Worcester's
long run of porcelain
license plates gave way to
embossed metal versions
For a photo census of
known Worcester
porcelains, click HERE
1912-13
Shellfish Commission
Blue/White
3 1/2" x 6 1/2"
Does the existence of this
plate indicate that
Hawker & Peddler
porcelains were
discontinued after
1927-28?
1914-15
Licensed Junk
White/Blue
5" x 7"
1914-15
Licensed Jobber
White/Blue
5" x 7"
1915-16
Licensed Hackney
Blue/White
5" x 7"
1914-15
Milk License
White/Blue
5" x 7"
1915-16
Milk License
Blue/White
5" x 7"
1916-17
Milk License
White/Red
5" x 7"
1911
Milk
White/Blue
3" x 5"
1912
Milk
Blue/White
3" x 5"
1913
Milk
White/Red
3" x 5"
1914
Milk
Black/Yellow
3" x 5"
1915
Milk
Yellow/Black
3" x 5"
1916
Milk
White/Green
3" x 5"
1917
Milk
White/Black
3" x 5"
1918
Milk
White/Red
3" x 5"
1919
Milk
Black/White
3" x 5"
1920
Milk
White/Green
3" x 5"
1921
Milk
Black/Yellow
3" x 5"
1922
Milk
White/Black
3" x 5"
1923
Milk
Black/Red
3" x 5"
1924
Milk
White/Green
3" x 5"
1925
Milk
Black/Red
3" x 5"
1926
Milk
Black/Yellow
3" x 5"
1927
Milk
White/Orange
3" x 5"
1928
Milk
Black/Green
3" x 5"
1929
Milk
Black/Yellow
3" x 5"
1916-17
Hawker & Peddler
White/Blue
Size Unknown
1939-40
Unknown
Black/Red
5" x 9"
1939-40
Vendor
Black/Red
5" x 9"