A Website for Porcelain License Plate Collectors & Enthusiasts
New York Archive - Part 2

New York first began issuing official plates in 1910, but it took them a couple of
years before they experimented with porcelain.  In fact, New York’s only porcelain
issue was an undated red & white plate issued in 1912.  These plates were
manufactured by the Lalance and Grosjean Manufacturing Company in
Woodhaven, Long Island.  The rear of the plates were painted dark blue and bore
a maker’s stamp in white reading “L. & G. Mfg. Co.”  

As Keith Marvin has written of the numbering system, numbers 1 through 999
were issued first to VIPs, followed by numbers 1000 through 2,999 which were
reserved for dealers and manufacturers, and finally the general public received
their plates.  Numbers 3,000-49,000 were distributed to the New York City, Long
Island, Rockland and Westchester Counties, while plates numbered 50,000
through 69,000 were for Elmira, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo areas.  Numbers
70,000 and up were relegated to Albany, Poughkeepsie, Plattsburg, Utica,
Watertown, Binghampton, and Newburg.

In the beginning, these porcelains did not vary in length depending on the plate
number.  However, once numbers hit #100,000, the plates were elongated by a
inch.  Interestingly, in July of 1912, the "New York Times" made the following
observation: "thousands of this year's plates have been chipped and marred
because of the brittleness of the enamel, causing many complaints."  This reality
may well explain why New York switched back to non-porcelains for good
beginning in 1913.


There are only two varieties of non-
passenger New York porcelains known -
"A" and "M" prefixed plates.  However,
we have photographic evidence of the
existence of a "O" prefixed porcelain
used as a replacement plate.  As
explained in a December 1912 article in
the "New York Times," when a porcelain
was lost, the motorist had to apply to the
Secretary of State's office and pay a fee
of one dollar, upon which he or she was
issued one of these replacement plates
until the new plate was ready.  Thus, the plate number on the replacement plate
had no relationship to the regular registration number.  Rather, the state appears
to have had 500 or so consecutively numbered "O" prefixed plates for motorists
whose regular porcelains were lost or irreparably disfigured.


“A” prefix plates, sometimes thought to be dealers, are really a bit of a mystery.  
For a long time, some New York experts pegged these as dealers, since all
known surviving examples fell within the 1,000-2,999 series known to have been
reserved for dealers and manufacturers.  However, an "A" plate showed up that
doesn't fall within that span, suggesting that the dealer theory may not be correct
after all.  New York expert Chuck Westphal has a different take on the mysterious
"A" plates, believing that they were actually the latest issued passenger plates in
1912.  Evidence for such a claim comes from a "New York Times" article published
in X of 1912 about a bank robbery.  In this article, the comment is made that part of
the reason the criminals escaped was because the license plate number had too
many digits and was difficult to read.  The article said that officials were
considering coming up with something to address this situation.  Thus, it is
conceivable that the longer six digit plates were made and issued, found to be
unsatisfactory, and then replaced by the "A" prefixed plates on the smaller base.


The most common of the New York non-
passenger porcelains are the "M" prefixed
Manufacturer plates.  Issued in pairs, these
plates were given the 1000 and 2000 number
sequences in the 1912 issue.  Like the passenger
plates, these were issued in pairs.  There are
probably 20 or 30 of these plates surviving in
collections today.  Note the photograph to the
right which shows a fake automobile on display
at Coney Island in 1912.  This car was a popular
prop for tourists to take photographs with and I
have seen multiple examples of postcards from
1912 showing the same license plate.  Why the
photographer who created the prop car chose to
put a manufacturer plate on it is anybody's guess!


One oddball plate that defies explanation is a white on green dated 1915
porcelain issue.  The normal issue for that year is a black & yellow embossed
metal plate.  Perhaps a porcelain manufacturer was trying to get the state to
reconsider the issuance of porcelain plates and had this made up as a sample in
1914.  It is unlikely it is a replacement plate, because the owner would have
attempted to mimic the appearance of the standard issue.  Exactly what this plate
is and why it exists remains a mystery.


For 25 years, from 1913 through 1937, motorists who used the Long Island Motor
Parkway were licensed with porcelain plates.  Because these are neither state
nor city issues, but rather privately issued licenses, I have placed them here in
the Oddballs section.  Thanks to New York plate collector and Parkway historian
Al Velocci, there is actually quite a bit known about these rare and highly
collectible little plates.  The Parkway was a privately owned toll road that ran from
Flushing, Queens almost to Lake Ronkonkoma.  Most motorists would pay the
daily toll when they wanted to use the Parkway, but season pass holders and a
few privileged others, received the porcelain plates.  The Parkway opened in
1908, but it took four years before Parkway president William K. Vanderbilt
instructed that plates be manufactured and issued to season pass holders.  
Accordingly, the first Motor Parkway plates adorned the front grills of automobiles
using the toll road beginning in 1912.  Although no examples of these early plates
have been found, Velocci's research shows that they were small brass discs
about 3 1/2 inches in diameter with red lettering.  25 of these were manufactured
by the Chandler Company of Springfield, Massachusetts and came in two color
versions - one for season pass holders, and the other for VIPs.  The following
year, Parkway directors decided to switch to porcelain plates and contracted with
the Baltimore Enamel & Novelty Company to produce fifty 5-inch porcelain discs
with white figures on a blue background.  In 1914, the contract was renewed, and
50 red on white discs were manufactured.  25 white on black versions were
additionally manufactured for VIPs.  

In 1915, Baltimore Enamel produced 50 black on yellow plates, but the size had
now changed to the familiar 5" x 5" squares that would typify all but one of the
remainder of the Parkway porcelains.  In addition, the year was included on the
plates for the first time and purchasers with more than one vehicle had the
option to buy additional plates for a cost of one dollar so that they didn't have to
constantly switch plates.  From 1915 through 1918, this same system prevailed,
with only a color change each year: yellow on black for 1916; black on white for
1917 and white on blue for 1918.  Approximately 60 plates were produced for each
of these years.  With the continuation of World War I, the government took over
the plant of the Baltimore Enamel & Novelty Company for war production
purposes.  As a result, BALTO suggested Parkway officials turn to the Nelke
Company in New York City, which they did.  Nelke produced the Parkway
porcelains for the next two years: brown on white for 1919 and yellow on black for
1920.  As Velocci has discovered, the quality of the plates were not up to par, and
the 1920 versions were produced with no date as they were supposed to have.  
Thus, Parkway officials went back to Baltimore Enamel and asked if they would
resume production of the plates.  Baltimore Enamel's new contract for 1921
actually signaled one of the most significant changes in the layout of the Parkway
plates as they now bore the wording "Long Island Motor Parkway" for the first
time and had four holes at the corners.  The point should be made here that
because the 1913-1920 porcelains are very non-descript and have no indication
as to the issuer, they have been overlooked as Parkway plates by most collectors
and typically remain outside of the license plate hobby.  I am aware of only a
single plate - a dated 1918 issue - that appears to be one of these Parkway
porcelains.  Other than that, plates from these first 8 years of issuance are
completely unknown to me.  In fact, these early plates are so scarce, that 1921-
1923 plates are also completely unknown.  We know from Velocci, however that
they were issued in the following color schemes: black on light green for 1921
and white on blue for 1923.  The 1922 colors are unknown, but it is notable that in
addition to the 110 square porcelains produced for season pass purchasers, 97
presumably porcelain discs were additionally manufactured for VIPs – the first
time discs were produced since 1914.

The first known Parkway plate in collectors' hands with the "Long Island Motor
Parkway" legend is a 1924 issue.  By 1925, the 200 number had been reached and
Baltimore Enamel continued supplying these plates through 1926 when 267 plates
were ordered.  In 1927, the contract was taken over by the Beaver Falls based
Ingram-Richardson Company who bid for the privilege to produce the Parkway
plates at a price that was nearly 40% cheaper than BALTO had been charging.  By
1928, even though officials began limiting the number of duplicate plates to two,
an astonishing 729 plates were produced by Ing-Rich.  Numbers from #701 and up
were reserved for VIPs.  Another reason for the sharp increase in plates in 1928
was the creation of a new class of plate holders that year.  For the first time,
members of two local golf clubs - the Links Golf Club and  Wheatley Hills Golf Club
- were issued separate and distinct porcelain Parkway plates.  These plates were
different in both layout and color and were numbered from #501 to #700.  In 1929,
Velocci reports that 1,250 plates were produced by Ing-Rich.  In 1930, both
versions of the plates were undated for some reason.  In 1931, Baltimore Enamel
regained the contract to supply plates, and the plates were again undated.  
Interestingly, the increase in price of season passes, coupled with the
Depression, led to a fall off of season ticket purchases.  Whereas 200 golf club
plates had been manufactured in 1928, only 50 were now required in 1931 - and
these only for members of the Links Golf Club, as members of the Wheatley Hills
club were boycotting the Parkway.  

In 1932, the year was once again placed on the Parkway porcelains after a two-
year absence.  The 570 season pass purchasers' plates were dated while the 50
golf club plates were not.  In 1933, the golf club plates were discontinued and
fewer than 400 of the regular plates were needed.  The glory days of the Long
Island Motor Parkway were over and the issuance of porcelain plates only lasted
a few more years.  As Velocci points out, the Depression, coupled with the
opening of the Northern State Parkway, which was newer and free caused a sharp
decline in those using the Parkway and only 250 plates were ordered for 1934 - a
number which dove to a mere 75 plates in 1935.  In fact, when only 40 season
ticket holders remained in 1936, motorists were told to continue using their 1935
plates and no order was placed for new porcelains that year.  For whatever
reason, Parkway officials decided in 1937 that they would order new plates from
Baltimore Enamel and 75 plates were produced even though only 17 season pass
holders renewed.  This proved to be the last gasp and no further Parkway plates
were produced after 1937.


Another odd type of New York porcelain is the little Roosevelt Field plates.  
Roosevelt Airfield was an airfield in Garden City, New York which was named in
honor of President Theodore Roosevelt's son, Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed
in air combat during World War I.  It was the takeoff point for many flights that
were important in the history of aviation. Charles Lindbergh's 1927 solo
transatlantic flight originated at Roosevelt Field, and it was also used by other
pioneering aviators as well, including Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post.  At its peak
in the 1930s, it was America’s busiest civilian airfield, but it closed on June 11,
1951.  The known porcelains, therefore, probably date from the 1930s, but it is
unclear exactly what type of vehicle they would have hung from.  There are two
different varieties of these rare plates known, with about a dozen total survivors
in collectors' hands.  The numbering is a bit unclear, but it appears that the yellow
plates were issued first and had numbers running up to at least the mid-400s,
after which the blue plates followed with numbers picking up where the prior
issues left off.


The United States Military Academy (also known as USMA, West Point or, for
collegiate athletic purposes, Army) is a United States Army post and service
academy. West Point was the first United States military post built after the
Declaration of Independence. Established in 1802, it is the oldest military academy
in the United States. Located at West Point, New York, on a scenic overlook of the
Hudson River, about 50 miles north of New York City, the 16,000 acre Academy is
one of the largest school campuses in the world. A number of porcelain toppers
have survived which were apparently used on vehicles being driven on Academy
grounds.  Two varieties of plates were issued - one reading USMA and the other
WP.  These West Point porcelain toppers continued until 1940, after which the
plates were switched to flat painted metal.

USMA (United States Military Academy)

The earliest versions date from 1934, although there is an undated plate known
which may well be from 1933 or earlier.  

WP (West Point)

The second variety of porcelain reads simply WP for "West Point."


The United States Navy (USN) is the branch of the United States armed forces
responsible for conducting naval operations and traces its origins to the
Continental Navy, which was established during the American Revolutionary
War. The Navy has played an important role in every American war, and was a
crucial element in the allied success of World War II.  There is one example
of a large license plate bearing the number 93 at right and an abbreviation "N.Y."
at left that collectors presume indicates New York.  Just when and where this
plate was used, or what type of vehicle it adorned are unknown.


Al Velocci, "The License Plates of the Vanderbilt Long Island Motor Parkway."
Long Island Forum (Spring 2000), pp 19-31.

Keith Marvin, “New York – 1910 to the Present.”  
ALPCA Newsletter, 35, 3 (June,
1989), p. 70.

New York Times, July X, 1912; December X, 1912
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit (Golf Club)
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit (Golf Club)
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit (Golf Club)
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Motor Parkway Permit
5" x 5"
Range: 1 - Approx. 105,000
* 1-5 digit plates measure 6" x 15"; 6 digit plates measure 6" x 16".
6" x 15"
Range: 1,000 - 2,999
6" x 15"
Range: 1 - X

Due to the size of the New York archive, I have split it into two parts.  
Part 1 contains information on the following:


5" x 5"
5" x 5"
1912 New York Temporary

New York 1912
Maker's Mark

The New York 1912
Porcelains are the only
plates known to have been
manufactured by
Lalance & Grosjean
1912 New York Manufacturer
Motor Parkway Permit
6 1/4" x 16"

For a census of known
Motor Parkway

porcelains, please click