On February 3, 1937, the Nebraska State Patrol came into being after many years of discussion and debate as to the need for such a state law enforcement agency.
The name at the time however, was the Nebraska Safety Patrol which fell into the portfolio of the Division of Highway Safety under the direction of the Department of Roads and Irrigation.
The first recruit graduation class for the NSP took place on November 22, 1937, with 44 men who had proven themselves worthy of their office out of 3500 applicants. The goal of the day was simple and straightforward: reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents and help preserve life.
Nebraska State Troopers were then, and still are today, sworn state deputy sheriffs and are authorized to perform police services in all of Nebraska's 93 counties.
State Patrol Headquarters are located in Lincoln, the capital city. By 1954, aircraft and radar were added to the arsenal of tools needed to help address matters of traffic safety in the Cornhusker State.
In 1967, the Nebraska Safety Patrol became the Nebraska State Patrol. The Nebraska State Patrol is comprised of 6 troops including state headquarters in Lincoln.
License Plates of the Nebraska State Patrol
The earliest license plates used by the Nebraska State Patrol were passenger plates using the county codes assigned to the Troop areas. As per the photograph seen above, and what scant records of early NSP license plate use indicate passenger license plate use with a five digit number prefaced by county code number 2 (Lancaster County). Plate number 2-18013 was also used by NSP that year. A poor quality photo shows a NSP patrol vehicle displaying plate number 33 (Jefferson County) -3348.
The next record of NSP license plate usage is 1941 where embossed steel plates measuring 10 7/8" x 5 3/4" were issued. These state government plates were colored blue over orange and had the prefix OO followed by the embossed image of the Nebraska State Capitol building with NEBRASKA inscribed in the base followed by a number up to two digits and 41 embossed in the bottom right corner. These plates may have been used for several years as there is no record of any other annual issues thereafter.
In 1948 a slightly larger embossed aluminum version plate was issued measuring 11 1/2" x 5 3/4". The plate had blue characters painted over the bare aluminum. The formatting went back to the OO prefix followed by a dash and a number in the 400 series which was reserved for the State Patrol.
Around late 1950/early 1951, the State Capitol version of the state vehicle plates similar to the 1946/47 type were re-issued for NSP vehicles. The plates were still made of embossed aluminum and measured 11 1/2" x 5 3/4". The embossed State Capitol motif with NEBRASKA emabossed in the base was situated to the left of the plate and was followed by a number in the 400 series which was reserved for the State Patrol. Below the number was the title STATE CAR. This type was used until the end of 1953 when a new issue following the same format was introduced with a yellow-orange paint used on the characters over a black base.
- 1946-1947 State Car issue. Embossed aluminum.
Approx.10 7/8" x 5 3/4". White over red.
Unknown if there was a reserved number bloc for State Patrol.
Courtesy Wayne Griel
- 1951-1953 State Car issue. Embossed aluminum.
Approx. 11 1/2" x 5 3/4". White over black.
Believed that only 400 series issued to State Patrol.
- 1954-1956 State Car issue. Embossed aluminum.
Approx. 11 1/2" x 5 3/4". Yellow-orange over black.
When the continental license plate measurement standard of 6" x 12" came about in 1956, the Nebraska State Patrol began using a black over yellow license plate as seen in the color photo seen above. Although there is no clear photo of such a plate, it is believed that the plate had NEBRASKA embossed along the top center of the plate over a numeric serial over STATE CAR. This issue was used until 1960. It is hoped that someone can unearth clear confirmation on this elusive issue.
In 1960, another issue came out for use on NSP vehicles. This version is even more elusive as there is no record beyond the photo shown below showing plate number 192 on the period NSP Dodge patrol car. Possibly deep yellow over black as that was the color scheme used on passenger license plates in Nebraska at the time. Appears to have the state name at the top and possibly STATE CAR or GOVERNMENT embossed along the bottom below the number. Other numbers used by NSP on this base are 42, 130 and 294. As with the previous 1956-1960 issue, any clearer evidence of this type is needed.
- 1960-1966 issue. Possibly deep yellow over black.
Courtesy Monty McCord
In 1966, a red over reflective white embossed aluminum license plate was issued for use by marked NSP vehicles. They were once again state government issued plates but with lower number blocs up to the 500 series reserved for use by the NSP. The plates featured a state outline as the border. The word GOVERNMENT occupied the upper center of the plate and NEBRASKA the lowere center of the plate. These plates were used by the NSP until 1978.
- 1966-1978 Government issue. Type used by NSP but with assignment number up to 500 series. Some pool patrol vehicles did get issued higher numbers such as this one up to around 1981 when the whole fleet converted to the NSP graphic issue.
- Circa 1983 State Government issue. Dark blue over off-white. Number in 900 series.
Courtesy Robert Ward
In 1978, the Nebraska State Patrol broke new ground by issuing agency-specific silkscreened graphic license plates for all marked NSP vehicles in the fleet. It was originally believed that the first graphic NSP plates were issued in 1983, but photographic evidence reveals that these plates were issued as early as the late 1970's based on the vehicles seen bearing the new plates prior to 1983.
The new graphic plates had embossed numerals over an all-silk-screened aluminum base plate. The plates had a reflective white background and an embossed border painted in red. Inside the red border was an oultine of the state in red silkscreen. In the upper left portion of the plate was a silkscreened image of the NSP emblem similar to the artwork used on the doors of marked NSP vehicles. The title STATE PATROL was silkscreened in blue at the top center of the plate and NEBRASKA was silkscreened in blue at the bottom center of the plate. The car number/radio number/badge number of the trooper was embossed in red in the center filed of the plate.
Plate number/ radio number 31 was retired to pay homage to former Colonel Carl J. Sanders, hence any NSP license plates issued hence with number 31 are considered a "sample" or "gift" number from the NSP in honor of the former executive of the NSP from its earliest days.
During this time and believed to be around 1983, a new state government license plate was issued for all state vehicles in Nebraska. Some NSP vehicles were issued the dark blue over off-white state government plates in lieu of new NSP graphic plates, particularly if the vehicle was not issued to a particular badge/radio number. The plates had NEBRASKA embossed along the top center of the plate and STATE GOVT embossed along the lower center of the plate. Most of these types used by NSP were in the 900 series.
- Circa 1978-1987. First agency-specific graphic issue. Embossed aluminum. Numeral was badge/radio number.
- NSP SSP Mustang # 55 ~ Courtesy Monty McCord
- Circa 1978-1987 issue. Embossed aluminum.
Later issue with larger and squarer dies for numerals.
(Courtesy Tony Aleria)
- Circa 1978-1987 issue with Golden Anniversary license plate frame prior to release of 50th Anniversary base plate. Newer, more squared dies for numerals
(Courtesy Monty McCord)
In 1987, the Nebraska State Patrol celebrated 50 years in service to the citizens of the Cornhusker State. In commemoration of this milestone, the NSP created a 50th Anniversary license plate to honor the occasion. The plate was identical to the previous issue with the excpetion of a step border instead of a painted raised border, and a yellow-colored scroll beneath the NSP emblem that said: "1937- 50 Years of Service- 1987". The plates were displayed until the 60th Anniversary in 1997.
- 1987-1997 issue. Golden Anniversary.
Step border in lieu of raised painted border of previous issue.
Badge/radio number 36.
- 50th Anniversary license plate. Badge/radio number 328.
In 1997, the Nebraska State Patrol celebrated 60 years in service. As a result, they conducted a fleet-wide issuance of 60th Anniversary license plates as the previous issue had spent ten years exposed to 24 hour duty and the elements of the state. The new plates were identical to the previous issue with the exception of a red-colored scroll beneath the NSP emblem that said: "1937- 60 Years of Service- 1997" and the numerals painted in dark blue instead of red.
These plates were run by NSP marked vehicles until 2007.
- 1997-2007 ~ 60th Anniversary issue.
Recessed decal navel in upper right corner.
- 1997-2007 ~ 60th Anniversary issue. Number in 8000's- Number used by Motor Carrier Enforcement Officer and State Capitol Security Division.
Courtesy Bob Bruce
In 2007, the Nebraska State Patrol replaced the 60th Anniversary license plates with an all-silkscreened version of the previous issued license plate. The plate carried the same format and colring as the previous issue but had no embossing whatsoever.
Below the NSP emblem was a stylized font which reads Pro Bono Publico (Latin term: "For the Good of the Public") in blue script. The upper ight hand corner of the plate has two lines of blue characters which indicate a state inventory reference. These plate were used by the NSP until 2012.
- 2007-2012 issue. All-silkscreened.
"Pro Bono Publico" (For the Good of the Public) inscribed below emblem.
Courtesy Monty McCord
For the 75th Anniversary of the NSP, special "retro" plates reminiscent of the 1951-1953 plates were issued as an all-silkscreened version of those earlier plates.
The plates were all-silkscreened and had a subdued step-border. They were colored reflective white over black. The left side of the plate was occupied by a motif of the Nebraska State Capitol with NEBRASKA in the base and a red red banner across the center of the image with "75 YEARS" in white. The 3 digit number in white is to the right of the emblem with STATE TROOPER in white screened below the numbers. The lower center of the plate has 1937-2012 in white with miniaturized numerals in white in the lower corner of the plate and an inventory numberin the lower right also in white.
Commemorative souvenir license plates on this base plate were also issued. These plates had the assignment number inscribed in smaller font from the authorized plates and the words "COMMEMORATIVE PLATE" screened in white in the lower left corner of the plate.
- 2012-Current issue. Diamond Anniversary.
"Retro" plate reminiscent of 1951-1953 issue. All-silkscreened.
Courtesy Neil Bartfeld
- Courtesy Monty McCord.
- 75th Anniversary ERROR PLATE.
Used title of STATE PATROL instead of STATE TROOPER.
Courtesy Neil Bartfeld
- 2013-Current issue. All-silkscreened.
Replaced State Capitol image with NSP emblem.
STATE TROOPER along bottom.
Inventory codes on lower border.
Motorcycle License Plates used by Nebraska State Patrol
The Nebraska State Patrol comprised of twelve motorcycles in 1939 and utilized regular motorcycle license plates through the phase-out of motorcycles in the 1940's.
The plates measured 3 1/8" X 8 1/4". The plates were issued annually.
Confirmed NSP motocycle numbers for 1938 are 2-MC-25 and 2- MC-97.
No other information is known.