Wednesday, January 15, 2014

First Cars (January 15, 2014) -- Massachusetts License Plate No. 19

My maternal grandmother's older sister, Helen R. Cooke, married Dr. Frederick Alpha Roberts in 1922.   They lived all their married life in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Helen died in Pittsfield at age 95 in 1987.

Fred was born in Jacksonville, Windham County, Vermont in 1863. He attended New York University for a time, but apparently left to go to work in Boston for several years as a clerk. His uncle, Dr. Oscar S. Roberts of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, convinced Fred that he should go to medical school and at age 34 Fred graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Baltimore, Maryland.  Upon graduation he went to Pittsfield and joined the medical practice of his Uncle Oscar, one of the best known physicians in Berkshire County.  Their offices were in the Whelden Block of the city in what was known as the Pender Building in 1935.  "Dr. Fred" became widely known as an obstetrical physician over the years and when he died in 1935 at age 72, he was the fifth oldest practicing physcian in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Both Oscar Roberts and his nephew Fred were avid motorists.  Oscar was the first person in Pittsfield to own an automobile and Fred was a charter member of the Automobile Club of Berkshire County, having joined when it was formed in 1903. 

The license plate shown above is the plate that was issued to Dr. Fred Roberts and was retained as an active plate by his widow, my Grand Aunt Helen, for decades afterward. In the early days of car registration and license plates, the plates were issued in sequential order.  Later when sequential numbering was abandoned, those with active sequential numbers were allowed to keep their plate numbers so long as the registration remained active. My aunt used to get repeated offers to take over her plates, which became one of the oldest active plates in the state as the years went by. Dr. Fred held plate No. 19 for some 32 years and it was the lowest registration plate in Berkshire County when he died in 1935. 

I now have the plate shown above, a 1966 issue of Plate No. 19 to my Grand Aunt Helen.
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Image of the original license plate in the personal collection of the author. 
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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