A Website for Porcelain License Plate Collectors & Enthusiasts
TOTAL KNOWN PORCELAIN VARIETIES: 4
I: PRE-STATES / CITY & COUNTY PLATES
In 2015, this lone 1912 porcelain plate surfaced at an estate auction in New Albany. We
can't say for certain, but the presumption is that the "N.A." designation on this plate
represents the city of New Albany. As such, this plate becomes the first and only known
city or county-issued porcelain license plate from the state of Indiana. We don't know
what type of vehicle this plate would have been used on, but it seems unlikely that it was
a regular issue that all vehicles in the city were required to carry. This plate is also
notable for it's distinctive and highly unusual format, with the date being featured with
greater prominence than the serial number.
II: STATE-ISSUED PASSENGER PLATES
The state of Indiana first began issuing plates in 1913. The ordinance was to become
effective as of July 1, and bids to produce the plates were solicited at the end of April.
The Secretary of State estimated that the state might need as many as 45,000 plates in
1913, and bids were solicited to produce a conservative initial order of 35,000. Ultimately,
Secretary of State Ellingham awarded the contract in May, selecting the Quayle Enamel
Company of Albany, NY from among seven total bidders. This is the first known contract
for porcelain license plates Quayle ever held. The final product was an attractive yellow
and black porcelain plate that was issued in pairs and varied in length depending on the
plate number. Owners paid from $5 to $20 to register, depending on the horsepower of
their vehicle. The contract stipulated that 25,000 plates be delivered by June 15. For
some reason, however, Quayle had great difficulty supplying the plates on time and
lengthy delays were the result. Although the plates were only good for six months (July 1
– December 31), owners in Auburn, Indiana didn't receive their plates until late July. And
not until mid-August did a sufficient supply of 15,000-20,000 plates finally arrive at the
Secretary of State's office in Indianapolis for distribution.
Interestingly, this contract resulted in a breach of contract lawsuit brought against Oliver
A. Quayle and the Quayle Enamel Company in Indiana's Marion Circuit Court. Filed on
August 23rd of 1913, the suit alleged that the plaintiff, Harry J. Herff, was an agent for
Quayle who negotiated the deal with the state of Indiana to produce the 1913 porcelains
with the stipulation that he receive 10% of any profits gained via that contract. However,
after the deal was struck, Herff did not receive his cut, which amounted to more than
$1,100. This lawsuit and Quayle's inability to get the plates out on time turned out to be
just the first in a string of failures for the troubled Quayle Enamel Company.
On December 10th, the “Fort Wayne News” reported that up to that date, nearly 35,000
passenger plates had been issued, and by the end of the month, 44,715 automobiles had
been registered in the state. But after just one year of porcelain - perhaps due to the
disappointment engendered by The Quayle Enamel Company's inability to supply the 1913
plates on time - the state switched to embossed metal plates in 1914. As a result, Indiana
joined the ranks of Georgia, Minnesota, New York, Washington, and Wyoming as a state
whose experimentation with porcelain lasted just one year. Notably, however, Indiana is
the only one of these states to issue a porcelain as its very first issue, as all of the other
single-porcelain states adopted porcelain only after their state runs had already
commenced with metal plates.
III: STATE-ISSUED NON-PASSENGER PLATES
By the end of 1913, newspapers reported that some 438 dealer plates had been issued.
Dealers and manufacturers were hit with a heavy registration fee of $25. For whatever
reason, manufacturer plates differed from passengers in that the size of the plate did not
vary depending on the plate number. It is unclear if they were issued in pairs, but
newspaper reports indicate that dealers and manufacturers could purchase duplicate
plates – presumably with the same number – for a cost of $1 each.
The Secretary of State overestimated the state’s need for motorcycle license plates,
soliciting bids to produce 10,000 and believing that even more might be needed before
the year was up. As it turned out, just over 6,500 motorcycle plates were actually issued
in 1913, with each cyclist paying a registration fee of three dollars. Unlike the passenger
issues, motorcycle plates carried a "C" prefix, were issued as singles only and did not
vary in length depending on the plate number.
“The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette,” June 13, 1913; June 22, 1913; July 22, 1913; August 18,
“The Fort Wayne News,” April 26, 1913; June 28, 1913; December 10, 1913; December 26,
“The Indianapolis Star,” March 24, 1913; April 14, 1912; May 2, 1913; August 12, 1913; August
24, 1913; December 31, 1913
||Range: 1 - Approx. 45,000
|* Two digit plates measure 5 1/2" x 9"; Three digits = 5 1/2" x 10 3/4"; Four digits = 5 1/2" x 12 3/4";
Five digits = 5 1/2" x 14 1/2".
||2 3/4" x 8"
||Range: C1 - Approx. C6500
||5 1/2" x 14 1/2"
||Range: M1 - Approx. M500
|Headline announcing that
Quayle was selected to
make the Indiana 1913
|The Indianapolis Star,
May 2, 1913
|Headline about the breach
of contract suit brought
against the Quayle Enamel
Company regarding the
1913 Indiana porcelains
|The Indianapolis Star,
August 24, 1913
|Note the difference between an original
issue (#93) and a re-issue (#7).
This #7 plate was a replacement plate
made up at some point early in the
manufacturing process when the
three-digit plates were being
produced. The original #7 was
probably accidentally skipped or
the factory and a new one was
produced as a replacement.
||3 1/2" x 7"