DMV: Historical Notes About Connecticut's License Plates

Historical Notes About
Connecticut's License Plates

SERVICE UPDATE:  As DMV transitions to a new, online-only appointment system for road tests, DMV will stop taking road test appointments on October 21 and October 23, and will resume October 24 with its new convenient online system.  See more information here

With metal bases, Connecticut's registration plates were porcelain-covered from 1905 through 1916; they were painted from 1917 through 1919, and they have been stamped since 1920. They were made of iron until 1913 when they were made of steel and when CONNECTICUT first appeared on them.

The early plates made and issued by the state were 10 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches in size until the early 1920's, when increases in the number of cars registered made it necessary to enlarge the plates to 11 1/2 by 6 inches, solely because numerals were being used at that time. By changing to letters plus numbers in 1930 our department was able to reduce the plate size to 9 1/2 by 6 inches, which it remained until 1956, when the nationally standardized size of 12 by 6 inches was adopted.

(Note: Our General Assembly created our State Motor Vehicle Department as of June 1, 1917, at which time the department began to issue these registrations and to assume other allied administrative duties in connection with Connecticut's rapidly growing automotive world.)

Connecticut in 1937 pioneered nationally with so-called "permanent" plates made of aluminum. Another pioneering aspect of these plates was that they had annual inserts to denote each year of issue, the three-pronged metal inserts being changed in color each year.

Prior to World War II (in 1941) Connecticut issued their first vanity plate. The vanity plates where 1 to 3 characters. In order to qualify for the issuance of a vanity plate, you needed a clean driving record, if your driving record became bad, the plate could be revoked. 

Connecticut also pioneered briefly (in 1948) with "reflectorized" plates as a safety device to reveal vehicles in the headlight beams of other vehicles during dark hours, much as mirrors would do. However, the fast-increasing use of much chrome on the vehicles from then onwards plus greatly improved front and rear lights on cars made such plates less essential in their basic purpose.

(Note: Except for slight exceptions when unable to make them, our state always has manufactured its metal plates at various  state institutions.)

In 1962 the department converted over from a once a year renewal system to a staggered renewal system where the passenger vehicle expiration was based upon the registrant's first letter of their last name. We then had twelve (12) different expiration dates each year. To do this the department abandoned the metal tabs in favor of a small plastic insert. (And it was cheaper also.)

In 1973 the legislature passed an act stating that all marker plates manufactured after January 1, 1978 bear the legend CONSTITUTION STATE on the passenger plates.

About the same time the department decided to use a white reflective sheeting as the background of the plates and have blue letters. These were the first plates to bear the legend "CONSTITUTION STATE".

The reflective sheeting plate with the white background and blue letters apparently did not appear to be acceptable because in July of 1975 we reverted back to a blue background plate with white letters but the white letters were reflective using a process called "beads on paint". The process appears to last better than the plates with the full reflective sheeting since we still are using it in the mid 1980s. At this time, we started incorporating a dot between all alpha/numeric characters. We also started centering all plates instead of placing all letters to one far side, and all numerics to the other.

In 1980 the state of Connecticut went from a two (2) plate issue per registrant to a one (1) plate issue per registrant.

In 1987 the state of Connecticut went from a one (1) plate issue per registrant to a two (2) plate issue per registrant.

The following dates mark the year and the colors of Connecticut's license plates.

1903 - 1905 First plates used, these were made up on order of the owner of the car by a carriage maker in New Haven. Made of leather with house numbers riveted on. They were use for three years or until replaced by state issued plates.

1905 - 1908 First plates issued by the State. These were porcelain enamel with black background and white characters. The letter "C" was rounded.

1908 - 1909 Black background with white letters, porcelain enamel. The letter "C" was square shaped in contrast to the "C" of previous years.

1910 Red background with white letters, porcelain enamel. *

1911 White background with blue letters, porcelain enamel.*

1912 Green background with white letters, porcelain enamel.*

1913 Blue background with white letters, porcelain enamel.*

1914 Green background with white letters, porcelain enamel.**

1915 Black background with yellow letters, porcelain enamel. **

1916 Black background with white letters, porcelain enamel.**

1917 White background with blue letters, porcelain enamel.**

1918 White background with green letters, porcelain enamel.**

1919 White background with black letters, porcelain enamel.**

1920 Cream background with blue letters, embossed metal, painted. **

1921 Black background with yellow letters, embossed metal, painted. **

1922 Cream background with red letters, embossed metal, painted.**

1923 Green background with white letters, embossed metal, painted. **

1924 Grey background with black letters, embossed metal, painted. **

1925 Black background with yellow letters, embossed metal, painted. **

1926 Yellow background with black letters, embossed metal, painted. **

1927 Maroon background with white letters and numerals.

1928 Black background with white letters and numerals.

1929 Maroon background with white letters and numerals.

1930 Black background with white letters and numerals.

1931 Maroon background with white letters and numerals.

1932 Blue background with white letters and numerals.

1933 Maroon background with white letters and numerals.

1934 Blue background with gold letters and numerals.

1935 Maroon background with white letters and numerals.

1936 Blue background with gold letters and numerals.

1937 - 1947 Aluminum background with black letters and numerals.

1948 Aluminum background with black letters and numerals.

1957 - 1973 Blue background with white letters and numerals.

1974 - 1975 White background with blue letters and numerals.

1975 - present Blue background with white letters and numerals.

1992 - present Introduction of Long Island Sound plate; proceeds used to preserve the Sound

1993 -  Introduction of Special Interest plates for qualifying organizations.

2000 - Fully Reflectorized plate; Tri-blue background (matching the Special Interest plates) with dark blue letters and numerals.

2013 - Introduction of seven-character format for vanity plates (previously allowed up to six characters).

2015 - Introduction of seven-character format for standard issue plates.





Content Last Modified on 4/28/2017 2:17:33 PM