Collingwood Museum Insider's Look

License Plate

License Plate

Leather Ontario License Plate, 1904

Collingwood Museum Collection X972.326.1

16.5cm long and 26cm wide

Lindsay Cook, Station Attendant/Exhibit Lead

Leah Abaza, Collections Management Assistant


 As a part of our ‘Collingwood Retrospective: 150 Years of Innovation’ exhibit, this 1904 license plate attests to one of the technological breakthroughs that changed the lives of Canadians and those living in Collingwood: transportation.

In 1903, Ontario became the first province to administer license plates. Since only 713 leather license plates were issued before being replaced by rubber in 1906, this artifact holds unique value.  In fact, it is from Collingwood’s first car owned by Charlie Hopps. The plate was registered to a 1904 Le Roy, purchased in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario. A mere 20 of these automobiles were manufactured in Canada before the company went out of business. 

From coast to coast to coast, the introduction of the automobile made traveling easier and showcased tourism as a spectacle.  In the early 1900s, newspapers began to feature local citizens’ travel plans in tourist columns. Readers could see where their friends were travelling and determine each week’s most popular destinations.

Today, this license plate sparks wanderlust among viewers as a symbol from the past. How far did the plate travel? Which Canadian coasts did it reach? Not only are these questions key for curiosity, they prompt us to learn about the changes and advancements of technology that have shaped our culture. Now, license plates are important personal and legal identifiers for Canadians with various codes and designs available; our prime minister’s license plate signifies his status as a diplomat with its red colour and the code “CAN 001.”

While the automobile drove Canada’s technological expansion, it sank marine transport and ran the railway industry off its tracks. In Collingwood, these integral enterprises were phased out over the course of the mid to late 1900s making way for Collingwood’s tourism sector.