Sunday, February 28, 2010

INDIANA LICENSE PLATE HISTORY TIDBIT #1 -- How the 1963 switch to county numbers almost didn't work out

In June 1962, the then-commissioner of Indiana's Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Allen Nutting, announced that the state's 1963 plates would be all-numeric, with either the first digit or first two digits determining the county in which a particular plate was issued.

But we know today that there were no all-numeric plates issued for 1963.

There's a reason for that.

According to an article in the June 19, 1962 Evansville Press, Nutting backpedaled on the all-numeric plate idea because, when the punch cards were run through the bureau's rudimentary computers, the machines couldn't distinguish between the numbers 5 2345 (a plate meant for Blackford County) and 52 345 (a plate to be issued in Miami County).

It didn't take a machine to figure out that wasn't going to work.

Thus the bureau added what they called "an alphabetical branch prefix" -- a letter -- between the county number and the plate number.  In Spencer County, that meant plates issued at the Rockport branch began with "74A" and those issued at the Dale branch began with "74B."

And now you know a little more about Indiana plate history than you did before.

NEXT TIME:  Find out why plates ending with "9" and "0" were hot commodities in Indiana in 1969!

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