Rare Absaroka License Plate

Absaroka Plate

After telling my father about that automobilia collection we looked at other day, he smiled and said, “I want to show you something”. He then proceeded to pull an item out of the shelf. It looked like a license plate, but it was a little wider and had the words “Proposed State of Absaroka” stamped onto it. Turns out that this simple piece of metal told quite a story. Apparently, in 1939 some ranchers and farmers in Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota decided that they were fed up with how things were being run in the Capital so the idea of forming a new State was proposed. Absaroka would have been the 49th State and Sheridan, Wyoming (my hometown) would have been the capital. Obviously, that never happened, but they did manage to crown a Miss Absaroka and print some of these license plates before the plan was abandoned.

Miss Absaroka

Here’s a couple of Miss Absaroka contestants proudly brandishing their freshly minted license plates (the winner is on the right). You can tell that my father’s plate is old, but you wouldn’t guess that it’s from 1939! I knew that the area in which I grew up was full of rich history, but this was one aspect of our State’s past that hadn’t been taught in history class. You can read more about the details here in an article that South Dakota Magazine ran a while back. This whole thing may be more interesting to me because of the personal connection, but I think any car guy can appreciate an exceptionally rare license plate with a good story behind it. It’s anyone’s guess as to how many of these plates were produced, but I have a feeling that very few exist today. So, do any of you have any rare license plate stories to share?


  1. Woodie Man

    Great story. Sounds like another bunch of drunken old guys in the basement Rotary Club stirring up revolution. Good thing they never succeeded or they would have been shot as traitors.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      A lot of the ranch owners around here were actually wealthy businessmen from the east and it sounds like they were just trying to get the attention of the politicians down in the capital. From what I’ve read, it must have worked because they started to listen to the northern part of the state after the war.

  2. Bobsmyuncle

    Was Walt Longmire’s Sheriff badge minted alongside the plates?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Good catch! The author of the Longmire books that inspired the tv series lives around here. Some of the actors even come into town every year for “Longmire Days”.

      Like 1
  3. Cassidy

    Where did these good ole boys come up with a name like “Absaroka”?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      It’s the name of a mountain range nearby.

      Like 1
  4. jim s

    very interesting story and a tag worth keeping. the real story on how the other states in the USA were formed is also interesting. what will happen to all the black plates if/when california splits into 2 states?

    • opiejeanne

      That will never happen, and it is sometimes discussed as a three state split when you start talking about State of Jefferson, which takes up part of Oregon.

      The two-state split is not north vs. south, it’s more central, eastern, and northeastern that want to separate from the south and the west. Farmers vs. everyone else.

  5. Ed P

    I wonder how many other states have similar stories. The Eastern Shore of Maryland has periodically threatened to secede but nothing ever comes of it.

    • opiejeanne

      We were in Milan and Venice last fall and there were protests in both places, urging a separation from Italy, because they didn’t like the way one of the recent national votes had gone. Taking their ball and going home, basically.

      • Bobsmyuncle

        Given Greece’s predicament, and the fact that Italy is probably worse off, there is probably more to it.

    • Steve

      Not sure about the Eastern Shore Ed, however my native Western Maryland certain has…as recently as a few years ago.

  6. scottymac

    There was the (relatively) recent talk of northeastern (?) Colorado counties seceding, because of socialists taking seats in the legislature, and the recalls that booted some of them out. The eastern part of Washington state talked about a split, and calling themselves Lincoln. Or Texas seceding. Not that rare a notion.

    • Ed P

      Texas was talking about seceding, then a hurricane hit. Nothing since. Funny how that works.

      • Woodie Man

        Kinda like the adoption of the Revolutionary war flag “Dont Tread On Me” as a bumper sticker. You often find those driving that vehicle, as I have, are recipients of various Federal govt transfer payments, whether they are retired military or otherwise on the “dole”.even if they don’t see it that way. Kinda like the signs from the TeaParty elderly screaming..”Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” Lol………cracks me up. Absaroka indeed

  7. Rocco Member

    VERY interesting!

  8. krash

    … some really interesting stories about the obscure/overlooked/forgotten history of our great country (not found in the run-of-the-mill textbooks)

    …amazing what a simple license plate can trigger…
    …thanks to all!!

  9. Mark P

    If you ever decide to sell that p,ate, let me know. One of 3 Wyoming items (license plate wise) I don’t have.

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