History of Nebraska Passenger
Vehicle License Plates
June 1905 – Motor vehicles first registered - Recorded with the
Secretary of State.
Individuals made their own plates with
One plate per car
Made of leather with metal numbers
1915 to 1939 – State Department of Motor Vehicles issued plain plates
Made of metal
Plates were two colors
Changed every year
In 1940 - 1941 the Statehouse Emblem was added
1915 may be when the counties got involved in the registration process.
1921 – Two plates were issued for each vehicle.
1922 – State established the practice of using prefix numbers to
identify the counties
Each county was assigned a number based
on the number of registered vehicles in the county at that time.
(Douglas #1; Lancaster # 2; and so forth)
1951 - Counties named by their initial letter instead of the number
The first county got to use the letter as
a single letter.
Douglas County (Omaha) was assigned
the letter "X" arbitrarily so it would have a single letter prefix and
thus be able to issue more plates for the State's most populous county.
The next counties used the initial letter
and the next letter in their name provided it was not an I, O, or Q. If
the second letter was unusable then the third was tried etc.
Each subsequent county in that group did
the same avoiding not only I, O, and Q but also any letter used by a
previous county in their grouping.
"Z" was assigned to Otoe County because "O" was not permitted.
Dodge County became DG when it should have been DD - apparently
identical double letters were not considered satisfactory.
Blaine County should have been BL but was given BA so that BL could be
reserved for Butler.
Buffalo County was BU
Using license plate funds - 1915 –
April 22 – A committee asked the
county supervisors to apply their share of the license plates funds to
the seedling mile to be constructed that summer instead of putting it
into the road fund. The board was not sure it could legally do that.
April 23 – Board voted to take $1,000 out of the auto license
fund, which has $3,500 in it, to the Seedling Mile construction.
First auto license – According to a news item in Nov. 1916
Originally the number was assigned to the
auto owned by A. U. Dann, a former Kearney banker [June 1905]
Then it was transferred to the late Charley Dungan [when he purchased
Dann’s car to use for livery – taxi – service Sept 28, 1905]
Nov 1916 - Sherm Hawley held the first state auto license ever issued….
[apparently the number stayed with the car, even when it changed
License plate renewal woes
Mar 10, 1920 – Estimated 4,000
cars to be licensed in Buffalo County plus several hundred new cars
through the year.
Jan 29, 1921 – Only about 2,000 license plates had been renewed
County treasurer’s office issued an
extension of deadline to Feb 1 but state law does not allow for
extensions beyond Jan 1.
Further difficulties caused by
applications for renewal being made directly to the state instead of
having the county treasurer’s offices distribute them upon application.
March 8, 1921 – Still 500 licenses had not been renewed.
Sheriff’s office was gearing up to
arrest those with delinquent licenses. Those arrested will get fines up
to $50 and required to renew their licenses.
April 14, 1921 – 26 cars with expired plates were spotted by the
In each case the owner had the new plates. They just had not put them on