Note: On this page I use the terms “slogan,” “nickname,” and other similar terms interchangeably. States have multiple slogans but I have tried to indicate in italics the most common or traditional one, which may not correspond to the one most often used on a state’s license plates.
States draw tourism and exhibit state pride by placing slogans on their license plates. Here’s a look at some from every state that have appeared on general issue passenger plates:
Heart of Dixie
“Heart of Dixie” has appeared on every Alabama plate since 1955. Sometimes it is plainly obvious, while other times it is printed inside a heart. On some bases it has added an additional slogan (“Stars Fell On” and “Sweet Home”). Can’t find it on the latest base? Look at the bottom right corner.
The Last Frontier
The first couple of decades of statehood, Alaska had “North To The Future,” “The Great Land,” or no slogan at all; but “The Last Frontier” base in 1981 has reigned supreme since (drivers have had optional plates during the span, but none have had a traditional slogan).
The Grand Canyon State
Every Arizona passenger plate since 1947 has bore the slogan “Grand Canyon State.” Interestingly, to date none – passenger or specialty – has actually pictured the Grand Canyon.
The Natural State
Arkansas has an interesting history with it’s nickname. The first official name was “The Wonder State,” adopted in 1923. That never made it onto a plate, but “Opportunity Land” in 1941, then “Land of Opportunity” in 1950, did. In 1953 the state adopted that as the official nickname, and it was featured on just about every plate until the name changed again, this time to “The Natural State,” in 1995.
The Golden State
California has used it’s official nickname only once, on the “Sun optional” (which briefly became a base plate). The only other slogans it has used since are for the Sesquicentennial and the DMV web address, both variations on the 1993 “lipstick” base. Many years ago it celebrated the World’s Fair held on Treasure Island.
The Centennial State / Colorful
Colorado has rarely used a slogan. Throughout much of the 1950s and then again in the early 1970s, it used the tourism-friendly slogan “Colorful.” For the 1975 base, it used “centennial” – not referring to the official nickname “Centennial State” but rather the actual centennial of statehood.
Connecticut refrained from using a slogan until 1974, then it used it ever since.
The First State
In 1962, Delaware introduced its slogan “The First State” (the first state to be admitted to the Union). Fast forward six decades later, and not much has changed; Delaware has had the same base plate since 1969 with only minor variations (and the eight years before that were not too dissimilar).
The Sunshine State
Florida featured “Sunshine State” on every plate from 1949 through the 1975 base except for 1951 (“Keep Florida Green”) and 1965 (“400th Anniversary). The slogan returned in the 1990s on a limited basis, and a slightly more expanded role with the 1997 and 2004 bases. In these latter cases, some residents receive plates with the county name on the bottom, others the slogan.
The Peach State
Georgia used “Peach State” in 1940, 1941, 1947-1970…and then in 2012. During that long hiatus it showcased a slogan only once, with the 1997 “on my mind” base (referencing the famous song “Georgia On My Mind”).
“Aloha State” first appeared on the 1957 base, then continued with the ’61 (green), ’69 (yellow), US Bicentennial, King Kamehameha, and Rainbow bases.
Idaho’s iconic 1948 base featured the slogan “World Famous POTATOES” (along with a baked potato decal). Prior to that, it once had the serial inside of a potato (1928) but otherwise refrained from slogan usage. The state had different slogans (“Scenic,” “Vacation Wonderland,” and “World Famous Potato”) here and there until settling firmly on “Famous Potatoes” in 1957. Since then that slogan has been on every base and all their variations.
Land of Lincoln
1954 is the onset of Illinois using “Land of Lincoln” on every passenger plate (and most non-passengers too). The font changed after the first year, but consistency followed in the format thereafter until the 1979 blue on white base (with the exception of the U.S. Bicentennial-themed issue). In 2001, the state added a Lincoln bust to complement the slogan.
Indiana incorporated its official nickname into the slogan on a couple of occasions (1982 & 1991 bases), but otherwise has experimented with a variety of entries. Note that an anniversary has been used four times: 1959 celebrated the sesquicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, 1980 marked the bicentennial of the George Rogers Clark expedition (in which Clark and his men conquered the British fort of Vincennes), the 1966 plate celebrated the sesquicentennial of statehood, and the 2014 base honored the state’s bicentennial. [The “Heritage State” plate commemorated the U.S. Bicentennial but it is not specifically referenced].
To date, Iowa has used a slogan on a regular issue passenger plate just once, when it used “The Corn State” for the 1953 base (which lasted through 1955).
The Sunflower State
Kansas has used slogans in several instances: from 1949-59, “The Wheat State”; on the 1960 and 1961 plates, “Centennial”; from 1965-1970 the unique “Midway USA”; and finally in 1974 and 1975, “Wheat Centennial.” What the heck is the “Wheat Centennial” you ask? It’s referring to the first Turkey Red wheat planting in the state, which according to legend occurred in the town of Goessel in 1874. As for sunflowers, that’s limited to a small graphic on the 1942 plate, and a vanity base dedicated to the subject (Kansas’s personalized plates have their own unique design).
Kentucky added “TOUR” to the 1951-57 plates. Three decades later came the next slogan, “Bluegrass State,” which has remained on the plates up until a new base being introduced as of 2020. However, sometimes it was in tiny font and combined with additional tourism hooks (“It’s that friendly” and “Unbridled Spirit”).
With only few exceptions, Louisiana has maintained “Sportsman’s Paradise” since the late 1950s. Early on it flip-flopped between plural (“Sportsmen’s”) and singular, the last plural case being 1963. The state had the curious slogan “Yams” in 1954 and went with “Bayou State” from the 1974/75 issue through the 1980 plate. Other than that, however, the exceptions have all been tied to special events. In 1984, it read “World’s Fair” as New Orleans hosted that year, and in 2003, 2012, and 2015 the state celebrated bicentennials of one kind or another.
Generations of Maine residents have seen “Vacationland” printed on their plates; the state has not missed a beat in this regard since it was instituted on the 1936 tag.
Old Line State
You won’t find “Old Line State” on any Maryland plate, and slogans of any kind have been very scarce since the start. The unusual “Tercentenary” (celebrating the state’s 300th anniversary of settlement) appears on the 1934 issue, and “Drive Carefully” is branded on the 1942 and 1945 bases. After that, besides two optionals (for the U.S. Bicentennial and the 350th settlement anniversary), you have to fast forward to 2006 when the state website was added to the crest base plate and 2010 when a general issue honoring the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner included a different web address.
The Bay State
Like Maryland, Massachusetts has declined to slap it’s official slogan onto a plate. In fact, the first time it used any slogan was with the current base, which hit the roads for passenger plates in 1993. The state went with a patriotic “The Spirit of America” on a red, white, and blue plate
Great Lake State
“Water Wonderland” was the first slogan Michigan ever used, and it appeared on the 1954-1964 plates; in 1965 the state tweaked it to “Water-Winter Wonderland” but this change was brief, as in 1968 it became “Great Lake State.” This basic premise would hold for 40 years (with the exception of the U.S. Bicentennial base), varying in number of lines and exact words. The blue base ran from 1984 to 2005 and simply read “Great Lakes” on the bottom. The two bases since then have a state web address – one .gov, the other .org.
Land of 10,000 Lakes
The “Centennial” plate (noting the anniversary of when it became a territory; it became a state in 1858) was the first use of a slogan on a Minnesota passenger plate. From 1950 to the present day, it’s bore the slogan “10,000 Lakes.”
The Magnolia State
These are the only two Mississippi plates (1977 and 2013 bases) to feature a slogan. The “Lucille” base (right) is a nod to famed blues artist and Mississippi native B.B. King.
Missouri’s first slogan on a plate was for the U.S. Bicentennial, a simple “200 YRS” under an abbreviated state name. The 1980 marroon base utilized the state’s unique nickname, “Show-Me State,” which was repeated on the 1997 and 2008 bases (the latter, however, without the hyphen). The 2019 base is another Bicentennial, this time for statehood.
Big Sky Country
Montana debuted “The Treasure State” slogan on the 1950 plate, where it remained through 1956 then reappeared from 1963-66. From 1967 until 1976, it utilized “Big Sky Country,” and on the U.S. Bicentennial base “Big Sky” adorned the bottom. After the 1987 Centennial base, which read “100 YEARS” in the lower right corner, the next three (1991, 2000, 2006) all read “Big Sky” or “Big Sky Country.” Finally, in 2010 it returned to its roots with “Treasure State.”
Nebraska went with the memorable “The Beef State” on its plates from 1956-65. The Centennial (1966) and two “Cornhusker State” bases (’69, ’72) all had slogans printed inside a state map outline in identical formats. After the U.S. Bicentennial base, the state went without slogans until a trio of bases had a website printed on them (of these, only the one pictured above was readable from a distance). Finally, the most recent state Bicentennial base opts for what barely qualifies, with just the two dates.
The Silver State
Nevada waited until 1985 to brand a plate with any slogan at all, choosing its well-known nickname. This continued on to the next base (albeit in a less noticeable fashion) in 2001, and the variation. In 2016, a new base had the creative slogan “Home Means Nevada” printed on a colorful mountain range.
The Granite State
New Hampshire has never used “The Granite State” but since 1971 it has used the motto, “Live Free or Die” (a phrase adopted from a toast by New Hampshire’s Revolutionary War hero General John Stark) on every plate. Before that, it sported the slogan “Scenic” from 1957-62 and 1964-70, opting for “Photoscenic” in 1963 alone.
“Garden State” has appeared on each base since 1959, including the 1979 blue base and the 1992 base and it’s variants.
Land of Enchantment
New Mexico has had “Land of Enchantment” on every plate since 1952.; before that it had “The” preceding it (1941-1951). Two unusual slogans were on the 1932 and 1940 plates: “Sunshine State” (a slogan now associated with Florida) and “Coronado Cuatro Centennial” (celebrating 400th year anniversary of Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado’s entry into New Mexico).
The Empire State
New York has gone between no slogan, “The Empire State” (1951-56, 2001-2010), “Empire State” (1957-63, 2010-2020), and no slogan at all. The 1938-40 plates and 1964-65 issues honored the two World’s Fairs (1939 & 1964-65). And to kick off the decade a new base plate reads “Excelsior” (the state motto, meaning “ever upward”).
Tar Heel State
North Carolina’s two traditional slogans, “Tar Heel State” and “Old North State,” are nowhere to be found on the state’s plates. The cautionary slogan “Drive Safely” is found on the 1954 and 1959-63 plates. “First in Freedom” appeared on the 1975 base but was dropped a few years later (the slogan refers to the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the Halifax Resolves). The 1982 “First in Flight” base (which is still in issuance today) recognizes the Wright Brothers’ 1903 feat of the first sustained flight of a powered, controlled aircraft, which occurred in Kitty Hawk. A return to the “First in Freedom” slogan occurred with a 2015 no-cost optional.
Peace Garden State
North Dakota debuted “Peace Garden State” on its plate in 1956, and hasn’t abated since, even as it added in new slogans (“Centennial,” 1987 base; “Discover the Spirit,” 1992 base; and “Legendary,” 2016 base).
The Buckeye State
Until 1991, a slogan appeared on only a couple occasions – in 1938, celebrating the sesquicentennial of the establishment of the Northwest Territory (part of which became the state of Ohio), and in 1974/75, with the safety-conscience “Seat Belts Fastened?” Then came a string of slogans: “the heart of it all!” (two variations of the ’91 base), “Birthplace of Aviation” (third variation of ’91 base, and on the following three bases), and a literal plate-full of slogans printed in light grey on the 2013 so-called “Pride” base (the slogans were culled from the public). It’s worth noting that on the 2010 base they also snuck in the word “Beautiful” before the state name.
“Sooner State” doesn’t lull in visitors quite like “Visit” (appearing on all 1955-62 plates) or “Is OK” (featured on issues from 1967-75, 1977-78, and on the 1980, 1982, and 1989 bases the latter two with an exclamation mark at the end). For the 1989 and 2009 bases, it went with “Native America” before returning with a tourist-targeted double slogan of “Explore” and “TravelOK.com” to accompany the 2017 scissor-tailed flycatcher base.
The Beaver State
Oregon featured a slogan only once, with the catchy “Pacific Wonderland” on the 1959 base which ran through 1963.
1971 kick-started slogan usage on Pennsylvania plates. That US Bicentennial base with the corresponding slogan was followed by the 1977 orange base featuring the traditional “Keystone State” line. The 1984 blue base had the memorable slogan “You’ve Got a Friend in” but a few years later a new governor wanted it removed, so it was replaced with “Keystone State.” In 1999 and 2005, base plates with a website slogan hit the roads, but it retained reference to the official nickname via a graphic separator.
Rhode Island’s 1936 plate denoted 300 years of settlement, then fast forward to 1967 and the “Discover” base. The 1980 base and all it’s variations included “Ocean State” beside an anchor. The next base moved the anchor next to the state name and made both the state name and the slogan more prominent.
South Carolina is also known as “The Iodine State” but it’s a dated reference. In the late 1920s the state made a marketing push for the high iodine content in the local agriculture, and the 1930-33 plates branded the slogan on its plates. In 1970 the state celebrated 300 years of settlement, and in 1976 the U.S. Bicentennial. The next slogan appeared on the 1999 base: “Smiling Faces. Beautiful Places.” The next two bases sported the tourism website and the state motto, respectively. Though “Palmetto State” has never found its way onto auto tags, the palmetto tree has, on almost every base since 1976 as well as on two plates in the 1920s.
The Mount Rushmore State
Having visited this state, I can tell you there’s much more to like than just Mt. Rushmore, but you wouldn’t know it by the plates. The 1939 issue read “Rushmore Memorial.” In 1952, the state began the uninterrupted practice of placing a Mt. Rushmore graphic on every passenger plate, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that a slogan, “Great Faces. Great Places.” accompanied it. Before that, a sticker that came with some 1987 base plates allowed registrants to “Celebrate the Century,” if they chose to apply it.
The Volunteer State
Tennessee added its slogan “Volunteer State” to the 1977 state seal base and the 1983 map outline base. For the 1994 state bicentennial base, it cleverly mixed “Bicentennial” with the state abbreviation, making it a double-slogan plate. Tennessee went the two-slogan route twice more: “Volunteer State” is in tiny letters accompanied by “Sounds good to me” on the 2001 base, and the 2011 variation of the 2007 base features a tourism website in larger letters than the traditional slogan.
The Lone Star State
The first three occasions in which Texas had a plate with a slogan all had to do with special events. The 1936 plate noted the Centennial, and the 1985 base the Sesquicentennial, of the founding of the Republic of Texas (i.e., independence from Mexico; Texas became a state in 1845). In between that the 1968 plate read “Hemisfair” (name of the World’s Fair held in San Antonio). A Sesquicentennial of statehood plate occurred in 1995-96. The 1992 variation of the 1990 base, and the three most recent bases, all included the legend “The Lone Star State.”
The Beehive State
Utah had a series of compelling slogans in the 1940s: “Center Scenic of America,” “This Is the Place,” and “The Friendly State.” The 1986 ski base featured another fantastic one, “Greatest Snow On Earth.” The Centennial plate began as an extra-cost optional but proved so popular it was made into the standard base in 1997. The ski and Centennial bases remained side-by-side (motorists could choose) until 2008, when the new tourism slogan “Life Elevated” replaced the “Centennial” legend and a revised ski base, retaining the “Greatest Snow On Earth” and introducing “Life Elevated,” became available.
Green Mountain State
The first use of a slogan on Vermont plates is “Green Mountains” in 1948-50. The simple plea “See” was added to 1957-66 Vermont tags, as well as the 1969 and 1972 bases (in all cases placed before the state name). “Green Mountains” returned for the 1977 base, and it transitioned to “Green Mountain State” on the 1985 base, which is still the base used today.
Virginia waited until 2002 to debut a slogan (there was one for the U.S. Bicentennial plate, but that was an extra-cost optional), starting by adding a sticker commemorating the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the United States. A few modifications of the base followed. “Virginia is for Lovers,” the state’s official travel and tourism logo established in 1969, finally earned recognition on a plate with the 2014 base.
The Evergreen State
In 1939, Washington celebrated 50 years of statehood and applied “Golden Jubilee” to its plate. Another 50 years after that, the state rolled out a base plate with the slogan “Centennial Celebration” (it actually hit the roads in 1987). A few years in, the slogan was dropped, and then in 1998 replaced with “Evergreen State.” It has remained that way since.
West Virginia used to have “Mountain State” (the official nickname) on its plates; since 1976 it’s opted for “Wild, Wonderful”.
As with several other states, an anniversary started slogan usage in West Virginia. The “Centennial” caption appeared on both the 1963 and 1964 plates. From 1965 to 1970, and then on the 1971 base, plates carried the traditional nickname “Mountain State.” The 1976 map base reflected a new slogan introduced a year earlier, “Wild, Wonderful,” and the 1981 base did as well. Though the governor had the slogan removed from the state’s welcome signs in 1991, it stayed on the plates for the next (and current) base, introduced in 1996. For almost a decade starting in 2000, the plate had a web address printed in small letters below the state name.
Wisconsin has added “America’s Dairyland” every year since 1940.
The Equality State
While the bucking bronco and rider has been a staple on every Wyoming passenger plate since 1936, a slogan has appeared only twice, both for anniversaries. “The Spirit of ’76 – In the American West!” decorated the U.S. Bicentennial base, and “Centennial” with the respective years noted 100 years of statehood.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) began issuing plates with the legend “Nation’s Capital” in 1954. After 20 straight years, they introduced the U.S. Bicentennial base with the corresponding slogan; this base was modified to say “Nation’s Capital” again a few years later. In 1985, a new base with a script letters arrived, featuring the nickname “A Capital City.” Still considered the current base, it has been modified several times, with the slogan changing to “Celebrate & Discover” in 1991 and to “Taxation Without Representation” in 2000.