Who Gets License Plate Number 1?

Jacob M. Schwoob standing next to an old car, featuring his Wyoming license plate number 1.

Jacob M. Schwoob with license plate no. 1. Photo from Box 5, Folder title “Schwoob, Jacob M. (and others)-Snapshots.” of the Jacob M. Scwhoob papers.

Jacob M. Schwoob riding horseback in front of a log cabin.

Schwoob on horseback. Photo from Box 5, Jacob M. Schwoob papers.

The State of Wyoming began issuing motor vehicle license plates in 1913.  Who got plate number 1?  The man who wrote the motor vehicle licensing law, state senator Jacob M. Schwoob of Park County. Schwoob continued to apply for, and receive, plate 1 annually until 1929, when he was awarded the number for the term of his life.  The honor recognized not only his authorship of the licensing bill but also his continuing advocacy of good roads for the sake of economic development.

Jacob M. Schwoob was born in Ontario in 1874.  At the age of 18 he immigrated to the United States, arriving first in Buffalo, New York, then moving to Cody, Wyoming, in 1898.  He was business manager of the Cody Trading Company until 1916, when he purchased the store and became its owner. A Republican, he served in the state senate from 1905 until 1913.  He pushed through a law to permit counties to issue bonds for road-building, as well as pressing for the introduction of automobiles into Yellowstone National Park.  Automobiles were officially allowed inside the Park in 1915.

Jacob M. Schwoob sitting on the hood of an old automobile, displaying his number 1 Wyoming license plate.

Schwoob sitting on an automobile, with his no. 1 license plate. From Box 5 of the Jacob Schwoob papers.

Schwoob’s only child, Thornton W. Schwoob, died as a young man in 1928.  Jacob Schwoob died just four years later in 1932.  In 1948 Schwoob’s papers and photographs were in the possession of his grandson, Thornton.  The younger Thornton W. Schwoob donated the materials to the University of Wyoming, where they comprise a valuable record of a time when automobile travel was a new experience for most citizens of the state. To learn more about Jacob Schwoob and his collection at the American Heritage Center, please see the inventory for the Jacob M. Schwoob papers, available here: https://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah00097.xml.

-D. Claudia Thompson, Processing Manager

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