In 1943, the Illinois Secretary of State explained the war time, non-metal license plates to car owners with a special note that was included with their registration.
As you probably know, during World War II, most metal in the USA was diverted to the war effort. Since license plates were made of metal, states came up with different ways to avoid using metal. Some didn’t issue new plates but instead issued small metal renewal tabs that were attached to the old plate, similar to what we do today with the renewal stickers.
Illinois came up with a unique solution — it made plates from a type of fiberboard. A very sturdy material, many of these plates survive today. They go by various names including cardboard, fiber, soybean or bean plates. Yes, there is a story about goats eating the plates but this has never been verified.
Recently, the note that the Secretary of State included with the 1943 license plates was found by an Illinois collector (Daryl Williams). We have a copy here.
Your New License Plates
The Illinois Automobile License Plates for 1943 are manufactured of material other than metal so that steel may be released for vital needs.
This material is durable. It will stand usual wear and will take change of weather in stride.
BUT it does not have the resiliency o steel and must not be subjected to stress.
Fasten the plates securely, both front and rear. It is important that you use paper, cotton or fiber washer when bolting plates to frame in positions which protect them contact with anything which might mutilate them.
A LICENSE PLATE IS NOT A BUMPER
License plates are important means of identification. Do your part in preserving them.
EDWARD J. HUGHES
Secretary of State
An interesting bit of history.
Barb Sistak and Tom Baur
The License Plate Gal and The License Plate Guy
at License Plate Garage