In the ‘who knew’ fun fact category, maybe you did know. However, this is definitely a learning moment for me, and I’m loving it.  New England is definitely the land of firsts for the United States of America, being the beginnings of the country.  How fun, for me at least, to find out that Massachusetts was the first place to distribute state-issued license plates, all due to a wealthy man who was annoyed with cars speeding past his summer estate.

If you’re super up on your license plate history, then you’re correct in thinking "Wait, I thought New York was the first state to require license plates."  That’s true, according to Owners had to make their own plates for their vehicles simply by using their initials starting in 1901.

However, it was in 1903 that Massachusetts became the very first to make it a state thing, with plates distributed by the Commonwealth.  According to, the Frederick Tudor family was the first with a '1' on their plate, and to this day, the family still has an active Massachusetts plate with the '1.'  Frederick worked for the highway division, by the way, so it makes sense he had the first plate when this became law.

Henry Lee Higginson via Library of Congress
Henry Lee Higginson via Library of Congress

Now for the fun part of this history.  According to The Vintage News, Frederick was the nephew of Henry Lee Higginson, the founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who persuaded the Commonwealth to start an automobile department with state-issued plates.

According to the website, it's because he wanted ways to identify those cars that regularly exceeded the 15 mph speed limit near his summer estate. So yes, you can thank Massachusetts and a guy named Henry for our speeding tickets that eventually became a countrywide thing.

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