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Found: The Illusive St. Louis 1911 #1 License Plate!

For years, stories have circulated about a 1911 St. Louis porcelain No. 1 license plate that once hung in a local St. Louis bank. Legend has it that the framed plate "disappeared" after the bank closed in the 1970s, and efforts to trace its whereabouts have always reached a dead end. The good news is that it has resurfaced, and it will be offered at Donley Auctions Spring Plate Auction. And now the story can be told.

The 1911 St. Louis plate was registered to a 1911 Cadillac owned by Ben A. Hugel who lived at 4004 Giles Ave. Mr. Hugel worked as a manufacturers agent. The 1912 St. Louis city tag No. 1 which is included in the framed display was registered to a 1912 Hupmobile also owned by Hugel. A photo post card of Hugel with his wife and daughter in the 1911 Cadillac is mounted in the frame with the plate and tag.

The plate and tag were first displayed in the Oliver Cadillac booth at the 1936 Auto Show in St. Louis. During World War II, the plate, tag, photo post card, and 1937 news article were framed as a nostalgic display for the War Bonds drive and hung in the lobby of the North St. Louis Trust Co. which was located at the corner of Grand & Herbert streets in St. Louis.

The bank changed hands in the early 1970s becoming the Allegiant bank (now PNC). During the renovation of the bank, the license plate display was tossed into a trash barrel. A former employee of North St. Louis Trust rescued it and took it home where it sat in a corner of his basement for over 40 years. Domenic Giofre remembered seeing it as a young boy in the family home. He rediscovered the framed display while cleaning out his father's house in 2023.

Donley Auctions will sell the framed display to the highest bidder as part of their April 28, 2024, License Plate Auction.

For further information or to consign items to the auction, contact Mike Donley #13967 at 815-790-9436 or visit their website at

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