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Iowa motor vehicle registration began in July 1904 under the supervision of the Secretary of State. A $1.00 fee was charged and the car owner received a 2-inch aluminum disk to be attached to the car. A homemade license plate completed the registration. The plate numbers were house style numbers purchased at local stores and placed in a visible area on the car.


Colors helped identify years and various numbering systems were used to accommodate the ever-increasing numbers of automobiles. This 1915 license plate is six by 16 inches. Early license plates used sequential numbers.


In 1921, the state issued a paper plate as a one-time experiment. It showed a photograph and fingerprint of the owner. Metal plates returned in 1922 and the county number prefix appeared. In 1925 the state penitentiary at Anamosa began producing plates. The smaller plates, 5 by 12 inches, began appearing in 1930 and county numbers were placed in alphabetical order. 


The 1953 license plate held the one and only slogan for Iowa, "The Corn State."  


Today, a variety of license plates are available. Iowans can personalize their license plates or can purchase plates that show pride in a state university, recognize a military service record, or demonstrate support for an activity. One such plate is the Iowa Heritage license plate, distinguished by the image of the American Gothic House, made famous by Iowa artist Grant Wood.


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