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1933-1957 Presidential Inaugural Plates
From a Series of Special Event, Limited-Use Plates

 

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1933 Presidential Inauguration plate no. 21

1933
Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt (first term)
Vice Pres. John N. Garner
Inauguration Day: March 4, 1933
Embossed aluminum, 6.125" x 10.5"


What is believed to be the first U.S. special event plate of any type is the first presidential inaugural plate, issued in the District of Columbia for the first inauguration of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt. On February 13, 1933, less than three weeks before inauguration day, the Board of Commissioners ordered "that the General Superintendent of Penal Institutions is hereby ordered to furnish the Inaugural Committee, 500 pairs of a special inaugural tag, with colors red, white and blue, and serially numbered." Based upon the relatively small number of plates made, it is likely that they were issued only for use in the inaugural parade and in conjunction with other official functions and were not available to the general public. A total of 68 of these plates were known to exist as of Sept. 2016, making them the most rare of all inaugural plates. A single sample plate, marked 000, is also known to have survived.

1933 Inauguration restricted area access pass

 
1933 Inauguration restricted area access pass
Cardboard tags such as these were displayed within vehicles used to transport dignitaries to and from inaugural events. Click on each of the images for enlarged views of both sides of these restricted area access passes.



1937 Presidential Inauguration plate no. 642: click to enlarge

1937
Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt (second term)
Vice Pres. John N. Garner
Inauguration Day: January 20, 1937
Embossed steel, 6" x 12.5"


1937 registration card: click to enlarge1937 Inaugural plate mailing envelope: click to enlargeFewer than 1,000 pairs of 1937 inaugural plates were produced, and as of Sept. 2016, 104 were known to exist. The year designation is somewhat difficult to read below the U.S. Capitol dome motif, and the red bars on the D.C. shield were spray painted. Not having bolt slots at the bottom resulted in extra holes being made in many 1937 inaugural plates, which were valid for use from January 12-27, 1937.

Also shown are the registration card issued and plate mailing envelope used in conjunction with plate no. 642, which was assigned to the Inaugural Committee. Click on any of the 1937 images to see more detail.



1941 Presidential Inauguration plate no. 634

1941
Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt (third term)
Vice Pres. Henry A. Wallace
Inauguration Day: January 20, 1941
Embossed steel, 6" x 12.5"

1941 Presidential Inauguration sample plate

1941 registration card: click to enlargeThe similarities between 1937 and 1941 inaugural plates are many. Again less than 1,000 pairs were produced, and 104 remaining examples were known as of Sept. 2016. The absence of lower bolt slots again meant that extra holes were required in order to attach them to brackets provided on cars of the era. Differences from 1937 are the far more clear year designation and that the red stripes on the shield were painted by hand as indicated by brush strokes.

The cost of 1941 inaugural plates to motorists that chose to purchase them was $5.50. They were valid for use for 15 days, Jan. 12-27, 1941 .

1945: Presidential inaugural plates were not made for the fourth inauguration of Pres. Roosevelt due to the influence of World War II on the nation and its economy. The customary large celebration was not held, in part because limited resources such as steel, rubber, brass, and fuel were being conserved. Instead, the 1945 inauguration was comprised of a small, subdued ceremony held at The White House on Jan. 20, 1945. Without an inaugural parade there was no need for inaugural plates, hence none were produced.



1949 Presidential Inauguration plate no. 653

1949
Pres. Harry S Truman
Vice Pres. Alben W. Barkley
Inauguration Day: January 20, 1949
Embossed steel, 6" x 12.5"

1949 Presidential Inauguration sample plate

1949 registration card: click to enlargePlates made for 1949 are the last in a series of three similarly-designed issues. Less than 2,000 pairs were produced, and 172 plates had been documented as of Sept. 2016. Extra holes are still common due to the lack of lower slots, and the red stripes on the D.C. crest were again spray painted as they had been in 1937. The period of validity was reduced one day, to the 14-day period of Jan. 12-26, 1949.

 



1953 Presidential Inauguration plate no. 392

1953
Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower (first term)
Vice Pres. Richard M. Nixon
Inauguration Day: January 20, 1953
Embossed steel, 6" x 12.375"


1953 registration card: click to enlargeDecals with images of the president and vice president are the most striking features of the completely redesigned inaugural plates made for 1953. Fewer than 3,000 were made and 314 were known to exist as of Sept. 2016. Plates properly registered with the D.C. Division of Motor Vehilces could be used from Jan. 12 through Jan. 26.

 



1957 Presidential Inauguration plate no. 202

1957
Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower (second term)
Vice Pres. Richard M. Nixon
Inauguration Day: January 21, 1957
Embossed steel, 6" x 12.375"


1957 registration card: click to enlargePlates made for the second Eisenhower-Nixon inauguration closely resemble those of the first, but colors on the various embossed features are reversed and the dark color on the decals is brown for 1957 whereas it is blue on the 1953 plates. The 1957 issue is unique in the series in that the exact expiration date is displayed on the plate. Perhaps the distinction was made because effective with this plate the period of use was extended by five days to Jan. 31. The period of validity, "Midnight January 12 to Midnight January 31, 1957," is marked on the registration certificate.

1957 Inaugural plate mailing envelope: click to enlarge and to see more imagesThe original order in which the Board of Commissioners called for "1957 Inaugural License Tags...and printing of registration certificates therefor," dated November 27, 1956, includes details of the plate design and specifies that 4,000 pairs will be made, although an amended version of January 15, 1957, increases the order to 4,500 pairs. Plate numbers are unspecified, so we are left to assume that they were marked 1 through 4500. As of Sept. 2016, 464 plates were known to exist, and it is worth noting that this is the only inaugural plate issue for which data still exists about to whom the plates were issued.

This specific information about the issuance of 1957 Inaugural plates is included in the Commissioners order: "The Director of Vehicles and Traffic shall have custody of the tags and shall maintain an alphabetical and numerical file of all tags issued. Tags shall be issued upon authorization of the Inaugural Committee and no charge shall be made to persons to whom such tags are issued."

The first several hundred plates produced (those with the lowest numbers) have two decals on each side because the first set to be applied were placed in the wrong locations, with Vice Pres. Nixon on the left and Pres. Eisenhower on the right. Each plate was corrected with a new set of correctly-placed decals before being distributed.



Most of the information and images on this page were provided by Charlie Gauthier, an expert on the subject of Presidential Inaugural license plate history. Mr. Gauthier has published a number of articles on the subject and has, over a period of decades, carefully built and maintained the most complete collection of inaugural plates and ephemera. As a District of Columbia native who now resides in Northern Virginia, he has worked directly with a number of past inaugural committees on their commemorative license plate programs. DCplates.net is sincerely grateful for his willingness to share his collection and knowledge through this page. For more information about these plates or to provide more information about or images of them, please send an e-mail to Mr. Gauthier at Charlie@DCplates.com.



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