PORCELAIN PLATES.NET
A Website for Porcelain License Plate Collectors & Enthusiasts
Massachusetts Archive - Part 1
TOTAL KNOWN PORCELAIN VARIETIES: 87

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 four varieties - Licensed Peddler, Licensed
Jobber, Licensed Junk and Milk License.  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. The Milk, Jobber and Junk 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!  It should be pointed out that the
Jobber plates are the only known porcelain license plates of any kind to bear that
distinctive terminology.





































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.  It was during this period of growth
that the city licensed Motor Buses with small porcelain plates.  It is unclear just
how many years these plates existed, but there are two 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
virtually unknown and it is not clear if they were produced for more than one year.










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.  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.











































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 is one surviving example of a porcelain
license plate from Westfield - a striking black & red vendor plate dating from 1939-
40.  This unusual plate 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 this plate is quite new by porcelain
standards.  It is the latest known porcelain 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.  Notably, this first 1912-13 plate 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 running 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.  Like the Springfield plates, not all years are known to
exist - I have never seen a 1919-20 or 1921-22.  Numbers in most years appear to
have neared the #1,000 mark, and the most common year seems to be 1917-18 - of
which I am familiar with six documented examples.  


























































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"
1914-15
Licensed Jobber
White/Blue
5" x 7"
1914-15
Licensed Junk
white/Blue
5" x7"
1914-15
Milk License
White/Blue
5" x 7"
1915-16
Licensed Peddler
Blue/White
6" x 7 1/2"
1915-16
Milk License
Blue/White
5" x 7"
1916-17
Licensed Peddler
White/Red
6" x 7 1/2"
1916-17
Milk License
White/Red
5" x 7"
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"
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"
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"




There is circumstantial
evidence that a run of milk
plates from 1911 through
1928 (like the one above) are
from Fall River as well, but
until proof of this surfaces,
these plates are listed in the
unknown archive
HERE.
Undated
Health Department
White/Blue
5" x7"
At some undetermined
point between 1930-31 and
1933-34, Worcester's long
run of porcelain license
plates gave way to
embossed metal versions
1939-40
Vendor
Black/Red
5" x 9"
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?