Pennsylvania State Police

The Pennsylvania State Police was created and signed into law by Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker on May 2, 1905. The department became the first uniformed police organization of its kind in the United States and a model for other state police agencies throughout the nation.

Opposition to the department's creation was strong and persistent. Because of the fear, mostly by organized labor, that the State Police would be used as a private army, the original complement was limited by law to only 228 men. They were to patrol Pennsylvania's entire 45,000 square miles.

The force was divided into four Troops across the state. By 1919, the demand for additional State Police units brought about the first increase in complement, authorizing a maximum force of 415 men. That same year saw the transfer of State Fire Marshal duties to the State Police. Also in 1919, the State Police established motorcycle patrols to deal with the growing number of motorists.

The State Highway Patrol was created in 1923 within the Department of Highways to enforce the vehicle laws of Pennsylvania's burgeoning highway system.

In 1927, the Superintendent established the first two State Highway Patrol Troops. They were Troop A, Harrisburg, and Troop B, Greensburg. that year also saw the First State Highway Patrolman killed in the line of duty.

In 1935, Troop F, Franklin, became the sixth and last Troop to be established by the Highway Patrol before the merger with the State Police on June 29, 1937. The new department was called the Pennsylvania Motor Police.

In February 1938, the Commissioner ordered 267 passenger cars painted white with black hoods and Pennsylvania Motor Police lettering on the door. These cars became known as Ghost Cars. On April 28, 1943, the Pennsylvania Motor Police became the Pennsylvania State Police. In 1956, the title "Trooper" commenced.

On September 1, 1961, the State Police officially began radar speed checks. In 1963, the PSP permitted married men to apply to the Force for the first time. In August of 1989, after a 50-year hiatus, the Department returned to patrolling the state's highways on motorcycles.

Twelve Harley Davidson motorcycles were assigned to Bethlehem, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to respond to accidents along heavily traveled highways. The program was designed to help restore traffic on major, densely traveled highways, where conventional vehicles could not respond quickly.

On July 31, 1993, The Pennsylvania State Police became the largest accredited police agency in the world. In order to gain accredited status from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, the department had to comply with 733 professional police standards.

Pennsylvania State Flag

Pennsylvania's State Flag is more of a square than a rectangle.
It is composed of a blue field on which the State Coat of Arms
is embroidered. Draft horses are on either side of the coat of arms
and the American eagle rests on the top. The scroll at the bottom
reads Virtue, Liberty and Independence. The first state flag bearing
the state coat of arms was authorized by the general assembly
in 1799. An act of the generalassembly of June 13, 1907,
standardized the flag and required that the blue field match
the blue of "Old Glory".


1929 issue- Although the PSP and the Pennsylvania Highway Patrol and later, the Pennsylvania Motor Patrol used primarily passenger plates with no particular number sequence, some photographs from the 1930's have shown police/patrol vehicles with OFFICIAL license plates affixed.
Picture courtesy of Bill Ceravola
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this type plate on duty....
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1933 issue- Although the PSP and the Pennsylvania Highway Patrol and later, the Pennsylvania Motor Patrol used primarily passenger plates with no particular number sequence, some photographs from the 1930's have shown police/patrol vehicles with OFFICIAL license plates affixed.
Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection
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this type plate on duty....
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1936 issue- Approx. 6" x 15" embossed steel.
Pennsylvania State Highway Patrol.
Earliest known PA plate with title:"OFFICIAL USE ONLY"
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1938 issue Official Use Plate
Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection

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1940 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1941 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1942 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1947 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1948 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1949 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1950 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1951 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1952 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1953 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.

Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection
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this type plate on duty....
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1954 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1955-1956 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.

Courtesy of Jeffrey Gyurke Collection
See Jeffrey's website that pays tribute to his late father
PSP Cpl. William P, Gyurke (296), and uncle,
PSP Tpr. Stephen R. Gyurke (606) who was killed
on duty in 1958,
http://members.bellatlantic.net/~jgyurke/dad.htm
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this type plate on duty....
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1956 issue. Reserved number bloc passenger plate
of five numerals only for PSP use during that era.
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this type plate on duty....
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1957-1965 issue- Commonwealth plate- Early steel version with thick pre-1957 dies. No reserved number bloc for PSP

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this type plate on duty....
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1957-1965 issue- Commonwealth plate- Aluminum version. No reserved number bloc for PSP. Plates run into 1966
as cars eventually miled-out.
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this type plate on duty....
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1965-1971 issue- Commonwealth plate.
Small Keystone separator.
No reserved number bloc for PSP

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1968-1971 issue- Commonwealth plate. Small Keystone separator. 5 digit numbers began.
Red Permanent validation decal to cover
debossed "68" in sticker navel.
No reserved number bloc for PSP
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this type plate on duty....
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1971-1977 issue- Commonwealth plate.
Small keystone separator.
No reserved number bloc for PSP
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this type plate on duty....
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1977- 1984 issue- Commonwealth plate. Dash separator.
No reserved number bloc for PSP

Picture courtesy of
Jay Weinstein

1984-Current issue- Commonwealth plate. Dash separator. PA in prefix position. No reserved number bloc for PSP

Photo Courtesy of Monty McCord

1984-Current issue- Commonwealth plate. Dash separator. PA in suffix position (unsure what year the switch took place).
No reserved number bloc for PSP

Picture courtesy of
Jay Weinstein

1965 issue- Front plate. Debate as to whether or not PSP used these as front plates during the 1960's or not,
but hey: it looks cool.
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this type plate on duty....
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1960's issue- Front plate. Debate as to whether or not PSP used these as front plates during the 1960's or not,
but hey: it looks cool.
Plate courtesy of the John Yeaw Collection
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this type plate on duty....
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1972-1975 issue- Front plate only. Characters are reflective. Used on front of new yellow and blue PSP cruisers introduced in the Spring of 1972. Blue and white PSP cars were introduced in Spring of 1974 and these plates were phased out along with the cars of the matching colors. By 1975, the last yellow-and-blues were off the road.

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1972-1975 issue- Front plate only.
Larger font version believed to have been released towards
1975. Characters are reflective. Used on front of new yellow
and blue PSP cruisers introduced in the Spring of 1972.
Blue and white PSP cars were introduced in Spring of 1974
and these plates were phased out along with the cars of the
matching colors. By 1975, the last yellow-and-blues
were off the road.

Picture courtesy of Bill Ceravola

1971-1977 Sample Type
 

1984-Current issue- Commonwealth sample plate. One of a kind. This plate was made "special order" for me in 2001 with the assistance of the head of the PSP Fleet Section in Harrisburg. As Commonwealth plates do not expire, departmental policy forbade a "professional courtesy" to send me a regular PSP plate for my collection. As my contact felt bad for not being able to land me a current PSP plate, he pulled some strings for me at the DMV and had this sample plate made for me to have a "legal" current PSP plate in my collection. There are some good people out there!
 

Current Issue
Community Services Unit Plate



The PA State Police use regular issue cycle
plates for their Motor Unit
Picture courtesy of Bill Ceravola
 

Dash Plate - circa 1950's to early 1960's
Courtesy of Jeffrey Gyurke Collection
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this type plate on duty....
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1968 issue- Front plate only. Flat painted.
Not Official Issue
Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection
 

Unknown date. Guessed as 1960's issue.
Personal issue "booster".
 

Circa late 1950's/early 1960's
retiree courtesy plate. Blue on white embossed steel.

Picture courtesy of the
Pennsylvania State Police Historical Society
Visit them by clicking here!

Pennsylvania State Police Association booster plate.
Promotional item.

Circa 2000 "booster" plate. Embossed thin aluminum

Station sign from the early days of the PSP
when the agency was known as the State Highway Patrol.
Porcelain on steel.

Picture courtesy of Nick Leary