America has a long-running love affair with the automobile The US highway system enables us to have the kind of mobility that even our grandparents would not have dreamed of at the end of the last century. An automobile means freedom and access, to be certain; however, it also implies a permanent relationship with the Division of Motor Vehicles. You can't drive a car without tags or "license plates," if you prefer.

The museum has 97 of them on hand, including 69 North Carolina tags, ranging from 1916 through 1972. The 1916 example is not stamped as most usually are. Rather, the numbers seem to be painted directly to the flat surface of the plate. (The only other ones I've seen done like it are Delaware's current issues.) The metal used is thicker than what is found in the bodies of cars today! A 1918 example is stamped with the famous interlocked "NC" cipher, which undoubtedly came in handy during home games in Chapel Hill.

Nineteen Belhaven city tags may be seen, including a 1928 specimen with a large fish stamped on it. Several city tags are much thinner and designed so that they can be mounted above the front tags during those years when North Carolina issued two tags per vehicle.

For several years, the state painted their license plates either black on yellow or yellow on black, depending on the year. In the sixties and early seventies, either red, blue or green was used on a light background. The year 1975 saw the introduction of the "FIRST IN FREEDOM" plate, commemorating the Edenton Tea Party. This was also the first time when stickers were issued instead of getting a new plate each year.

Come and see this piece of history and others in "Granny's Attic," the Belhaven Memorial Museum.

Belhaven Treasure #23

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Diane K. Mason, HTML Editor 1998