Chauffeur Badges and License Plate Tags
During the early 20th century, bus drivers, taxi drivers, limousine drivers, and any other drivers that transported paying passengers were required to carry small state-issued metal badges known as “chauffeur licenses.” In addition to a unique driver identification number, chauffeur licenses typically included the issuing state and the year. Drivers would wear these badges on their hat or coat while on the job. New York was the first state to issue the metal badges; they made them beginning in 1904. Chauffeur licenses were manufactured until the 1950s when they were replaced with paper licenses, which were much more affordable to produce.
The 191 licensed chauffeur badges in our collection come from ten different states (Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Oregon, and Vermont) and span from 1908-1955. You can see the date on each of these except for three from New York. That’s because from 1904 until 1912, New York chauffeur badges were undated. There were three different styles of these undated badges – A, B, and C. A-style chauffeur badges were made from 1904-1910. The rare B-style badges were only made during the last 5 months of 1910. The last undated chauffeur badges, the C-style, were made in 1911. You can see an example of each in this collection.
Also included in this collection are two California license plate tags from the 1910s. From 1916 until 1919, California drivers were given these tags to display on their license plate as proof of registration. Each year featured a different shape – a bear made of lead (1916), a poppy made of lead (1917), a bell made of lead (1918), and a star made of tin (1919).