New Hampshire Tidbits: Live Free or Die on Automobile License Plates


Sample of New Hampshire emergency responders license plate in 1969 before the “scenic” was replaced with “Life Free or Die.”

In July of 1969 the New Hampshire legislature voted to print the New Hampshire state motto–“Live Free or Die” on automobile license plates. The printing began in 1971, replacing the word “Scenic” which described the state at that time.  [Info from Dallas Morning News, Dallas TX, July 7, 1969, page 18]

The “Live Free or Die” statement outraged some residents who defaced the license plates or placed tape over the slogan. George Maynard, a Jehovah Witness, of Claremont NH was jailed for refusing to pay a $75 fine. Later his right to tape was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, when Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote that he should “not be forced to advertise a slogan he found morally, ethically, and religiously repugnant.”

In 1979 two state representatives, Rep. Mark Bodi, and Rep. James Kaklamanos attempted to legally return the “Scenic” to license plates, and failed, as the slogan continues to be printed on license plates to this day.

If you would like to know how earlier license plates looked, visit the online NH License Plate Museum.

This entry was posted in History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply