Dakota Datebook

Auto Taxes and Construction Season

Saturday, November 11, 2006

With winter fast approaching, we bid farewell to yet another summer–or road construction season, as native North Dakotans might call it jokingly. But, what few may know, is that there is some truth in that joke. On March 17, 1911, the state legislature passed a law requiring the registration of motor vehicles for a fee of three dollars, and the first registered automobile belonged to Charles Ellingson of Sharon in Steele County.

From June through October 1911, motorists registered their vehicles with the secretary of state. The fees collected in registration would be distributed among the counties depending upon the number of vehicles registered in each county. Today in 1911, the secretary of state was in the process of distributing the money owed to each county for the first time, and Renville County was given $237.60 for its 100 automobiles and 1 motorcycle ($65.40 was deducted for expenses). The law required that the money be used for highway maintenance and repairs. Law stated that the money had to be expended from April first to December first each year–or in other words, during our approximate “construction season.”

By Tessa Sandstrom

1911 License Register for Motor Vehicle and Motor Cycle.
“Renville County has 100 Autos,” Sherwood Tribune. November 9, 1911: 1.
“Flickertail Facts,” Sherwood Tribune. Nov. 9, 1911: 9.
“Motor Vehicle Registration and road Regulations,” North Dakota Blue Book, 1911: 506-512.

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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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