A Website for Porcelain License Plate Collectors & Enthusiasts
Horace E. Fine
Horace E. Fine was a metal stamping, stenciling and engraving company located
in Trenton, New Jersey.  Although not officially incorporated until 1909, the
company had been established in 1892.  They frequently advertised in the
"Trenton Times" and sold items such as mongramed sheepskin change purses,
engraved name cards, wax seals, cigarette cases. wedding invitations, Christmas
cards and rubber stamps.  They had a ground floor store on State Street with an
adjoining two-storey shop in the rear where the work was done.    

Horace E. Fine was a leading businessman in the city of Trenton and was
involved in a great deal of the city's commercial growth and development.  In
1914, for instance, Fine lent his automobile to Suburban Trade Day when cars
would travel through the surrounding countryside to encourage outlying
residents to do more business in the city of Trenton.  That same year he would
donate prizes for the local baseball league.  In 1915, Fine was one of a group of
merchants participating in game with local newspapers so readers could win
prizes for identifying misspelled words in advertisements.  He was local consul
for the Lincoln Highway Association and rented a facility for a lecture given by a
group of women from the Lincoln Highway Woman's Auxiliary visiting from New
York in 1915.  And with the outbreak of World War I, Fine would meet with other
Trenton merchants to discuss ways in which the city's manufacturing concerns
could best help the war effort.  Fine was known as a giving boss and each year
he and his wife would treat the employees and their families to a little bash at
their summer home on the beach. Providing transportation and food, guests
participated in a day of swimming, canoeing, motorboating and numeous other

Before his fame and success, however, Horace E. Fine
made a name for himself In the first decade of the 20th
century in the license plate business.  His company
was known for the production of a popular type of
aluminum license plate that residents of any number of
states could order for use on their vehicles in the
pre-state era.  Examples are known from states such
as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and date
from as early as 1905.  The company also offered more
elaborate alternatives, such as a dated 1909 Delaware
plate that has survived.  All of these plates are marked
on the reverse with the company's name engraved
into the metal.  The company also had a line of
removable metal number stencils that owners could
place in the lamps of their automobiles.

Beginning in 1909, Fine moved into the production of porcelain license plates,
although nobody quite knows what the company's exact involvement was.  The
first porcelain contracts Horace E. Fine received were from New Jersey and
Delaware, both of which contracted with Fine for 1909 plates.  This was the first
time either state had used porcelain license plates.  In the completion of these
contracts, Fine produced about 500 pairs of first-issue Delaware plates,
approximately 20,000 pairs of New Jersey passenger plates and perhaps 1,000 or
so Manufacturer porcelains.  Fine delievered high-quality products and regained
its contract with both states for the next two years, producing tens of thousands
of porcelain license plates for New Jersey and Delaware through 1911.

In 1912, Horace E. Fine would lose its contract with Delaware to the Baltimore
Enamel and Novelty Company, but managed to retain its home-state's contract for
one final year, producing about 45,000 pairs of passenger plates for New Jersey
motorists.  Fine tried to hold onto this contract by bidding to produce both the
1913 and 1914 plates, but was unsuccessful in both cases.  And with that, Horace
E. Fine's known involvement with the production of porcelain license plates came
to an end after a brief four-year flurry of activity in which the company produced
about 250,000 plates.

The mystery, however, is determining exactly what Horace E. Fine's involvement
was in the production of these plates.  After all, there is no evidence that Fine
was an enamelling company and, as such, they do not appear to have had the
equipment or knowhow to produce porcelain license plates.  The answer likely
can be found on the reverse of the early New Jersey and Delaware plates, which
bear the unusual maker's stamp "Horace E. Fine 'Ing-Rich Auto Tags' Trenton,
NJ."  Ing-Rich is a shortened version of the Beaver Falls, PA based
Ingram-Richardson Manufacturing Company, which was the second most prolific
producer of porcelain license plates in the United States.  The precise
relationship between Ing-Rich and Fine is unclear, but it seems a safe bet that
Fine sub-contracted out to Ing-Rich to actually manufacture the plates.  This
makes some degree of sense for New Jersey.  After all, it is not unreasonable
that the state would choose a home-grown company to award the contract for
New Jersey plates, even if they didn't have the capability to produce them on
their own.  Furthermore, the New Jersey porcelains carried small metal
medallions engraved with the automobile's certified maker's number, and since
Fine was an engraving company, it is certainly possible that they were
responsible for the production of these.  The Delaware plates, however, are a bit
more surprising.  They carried no metal attachments and would have had to be
completely sub-contracted out by Fine.  Why would the state of Delaware not
have cut out the middle-man and approached Ing-Rich on their own?  Whatever
the case, the Delaware 1909-1911 and New Jersey 1909-1912 plates are hybrids,
having been produced by a partnership of some sort between Horace E. Fine and

The 1912 New Jersey plates are the last porcelains known to have been
produced by Fine.  After that, the company went in different directions.  In 1913,
for instance, Horace E. Fine unsuccessfully bid to produce bootblack and
newsboy badges for the city of Trenton.  And in 1915, Fine won the contract to
produce dog tags for that city for 1916.  The original company did not last much
longer, and by 1919, Fine had sold his business.  In its heyday, however, Horace
E. Fine delivered a quarter-million porcelain license plates and holds an
important place in license plate history.

Trenton Evening Times, August 10, 1912;
International Motor Cyclopaedia Year Book (New York: Automobile Topics, 1908),
p. 189
New York Times, September 3, 1916


Examples of early aluminum
pre-states manufactured by
Horace E. Fine

Early Horace E. Fine Maker's Marks
Maker's seal on the reverse of the
porcelains Horace E. Fine is credited
with producing.  Note the presence
of Fine's partner-company, Ing-Rich
(The Ingram-Richardson Mfg. Co.)