Below are official records which the Ontario government published annually regarding the ownership of each plate registration. They were small passport sized books titled “List of Permits to Operate Motor Vehicles in Ontario”. These books were mainly used by police for roadside enforcement.
As far as I know, Ontario produced this book from about 1903 to 1915. After which time registrations exploded and it was likely too tough to keep track of. As an example, the 1913 book contains 400+ pages of passenger registrations. The other issue was that late year registrations were never captured in the book due to the manual process (ie: record gathering and pure publishing time frames). In essence, they were already outdated when released.
One of the most frequent questions I receive is: “Why are there so many out of province records in the books (ie: U.S. entries)?”. To this day, we operate under what’s called License Plate Reciprocity Agreements. These agreements allow us to move freely from one province or state with our own license plates on our cars. Likewise, visitors from other provinces and states can visit Ontario using their own out of province plate. Most of these agreements were put into place around 1913 for passenger vehicles. Before this, all provinces and states required vehicles to purchase license plates at the border or mail away for them ahead of time on a yearly basis if they planned to travel to that jurisdiction regularly. Therefore the records with non-Ontario addresses are due to this requirement. Likewise, any Ontario resident travelling to those neighbouring provinces/states would need to purchase a license plate in kind. In those days it was not uncommon to find two or three plates attached to some vehicles that did frequent cross-jurisdiction travel.
The shear size of the scanned booklet images is too large to publish on the web. Instead I’ve manually transcribed the books into open source spreadsheets so that the license plate collecting community may reference as need be. My intent is to share this important historical data with all. I’m hoping to expand this section as I’m able to find more annual additions. Thus far I’ve only been able to find copies of the years listed below. If you know of a copy – possibly in your own collection or for reference at a local library, please let me know!
The 1903-1904 registrations were graciously donated by Joe Sallmen. The data was obtained from a previous collector that meticulously researched the historical documents in person when the Ministry of Transportation had a publicly accessible archives in Downsview (now permanently closed). At least 948 leather plates are known to have been made over this period, therefore the data is only partially complete with many missing records. Renewal and make of automobile information was also obtained for these records.
The 1906 registrations are courtesy of the Toronto Public Library Archives. I visited in person and was allowed to photograph the booklet page by page. These registrations cover all rubber plates issued in 1905 and most of 1906. The highest entry is #1800. Anything above this number would have been published in the 1907 booklet. The 1906 booklet also included Dealer registrations were assigned letters in alphabetical order on a first come first served basis.
The 1910 registrations were graciously donated by Joe Sallmen. Since rubber plates were permanent plates (ie: they did not have a year on them), they were valid from 1905 through to 1910 provided the owner paid the annual renewal fee. The first column in the spreadsheet shows which plates were renewed in 1909/1910 (denoted by the asterisk “*”).
Additionally, plates were likely kept with the car during a sale/purchase. When comparing the 1906 data to 1910 data, some of the plates have two different owners, same plate number. Any plate number that shows “No record” by 1910 was likely not renewed by the owner in either 1907 or 1908 and dropped completely from the 1910 publication. The highest entry is #8820, although 9738 pairs were eventually issued. The 1911 booklet also includes Dealer and Motorcycle registrations.
The 1911 registrations are courtesy of the Toronto Public Library Archives. I visited in person and was allowed to photograph the booklet page by page. These registrations cover most of the porcelain plates made in 1911. The highest entry is #7530, although 11386 pairs were eventually issued. The 1911 booklet also includes Dealer and Motorcycle registrations.
The 1913 registrations were graciously donated by John Duignan. John owns the 1913 book, passed down to him from his great-grandfather who was Clerk of the Surrogate Court for Halton County from 1912 to 1932. I visited John in person at his insurance office in Milton, spring 2023 and was allowed to photograph the booklet page by page – thank you! Reciprocity with neighbouring states must have started in early 1913 as the amount of out-of-province registrations is negligible when compared to the 1911 book. The neat thing about this book is that it was published late in the registration year – September. All other books I’ve seen have been published in May of a given year. The highest entry is #22693, while the highest known plate survivor seen to date is #23348. So almost all registrations have been captured in this book. The 1913 booklet also includes Dealer and Motorcycle registrations, and for the first time ever a rare Motorcycle Dealer plate was issued – 40 triples that began with “M”!