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Clerk & Recorder Home

Clip's from the Clerk - 1911 Leather License Plate

Clip’s from the Clerk
By Trish Gilbert
Saguache County Clerk & Recorder
1911 Leather License Plate

English historian, Macaulay, has said: “The history of a country is best told in a record of the lives of its people.”

Not seeking the applause of the world, Bruce Alan Sauter, of Sterling Colorado, has kindly allowed us to display his family’s well preserved 1911 license plate (which would otherwise be inaccessible), in our Clerk and Recorder’s Office.  This license plate is made from thick harness-type leather with brass numbers (number 500) and was issued to Bruce’s grandfather Antoine, pronounced “Anthony” Sauter.  It was believed to have been a “lifetime issue” license plate.

Also, well preserved, is the receipt for the registration of that same license plate, issued from the City of Greeley on September 8, 1911 for the amount of one dollar, signed by W. A. Hotchkiss.

Born in 1842, Bruce’s great-grandfather, a native of Germany, became a substantial farmer in the vicinity of Weld County.  Generations of the Sauter’s have proven to be worthy citizens of Colorado, being of the strictest honesty, good character, industrious, economical and just; promoting the welfare of their community.   

Now, thanks to Bruce Sauter, coming generations can appreciate this license plate as a sacred treasure and important piece of Colorado’s colorful history, which otherwise would be forgotten.  Also, on loan from Bruce is 1913 and 1914 porcelain plates along with a set of 1939 license plates.

The state of Colorado issued its first Colorado license plates in 1913. Prior to this time, cities issued numbers and motorists were required to make their own plates.

These plates came in a variety of styles, and the materials used included porcelain, leather and even metal kits plates sold in hardware stores.

The 1913, 1914, and 1915 license plates were porcelain. Numbers on 1919 and 1920 plates were individually cut pieces and they were spot welded on the heavy license plate blank. A tab showed the year on these plates. The 1920 Colorado license plates were the first state issued stamped or embossed type. In 1920, most license plates in larger cities measured 6″ X 14″ with numbers 5/8″ wide and 4″ tall. County numbers first appeared on 1932 license plate issues.

The slogan: COLORFUL was first embossed on Colorado’s license plates 1955 and continued to 1955. Colorful did not appear on 1956 and 57 but reappeared in 1958 together with an embossed skier on the right-hand side of the license plate.

To mark the 100th anniversary of Colorado’s statehood, the word CENTENNIAL appeared on 1975 and 1976 Colorado license plates.

The next graphic on Colorado’s license plates appeared in 1975 with a motif of Colorado’s mountains screened on the license plates. However, the first embossing of a mountain on Colorado’s license plates was the year 1960 and this style is in use today.

Colorado issued its first retro-reflective license plates in 1971 and this continues today to follow mandate by the United States Department of Transportation. The most popular Colorado license is the 1971 issue used in the movie Vanishing Point with number OA-5599.

We encourage you to stop by our office to view the 1911 leather license plate (with the others) from days gone by . . . an era when more modern transportation paralleled or covered the tracks of horse-drawn wagons.

We would like to express our gratitude to Bruce Sauter for sharing his collection of historic license plates with us.

We also want to thank Ben Hewes of Sterling, for making the connection with Bruce and for providing the display case.