The Nation: Letterbugs

When the first auto license plate was issued in New York State in 1901, the licensee's initials were required to be on the plate, and the temptation to personalize automobile ownership has persisted. In 33 states and the District of Columbia, inventive drivers can, for an added fee, tag their cars with letters of their own choosing. Of course, choices that make use of ethnic epithets or sexual innuendoes are screened.

Car owners in Texas have shown singular flair. For their 1974 plates, 56,000 Texans decided to stamp their characters on their cars, a...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!