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James H. Kerby Arizona Copper 1925+ Operators Licence

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    Posted 4 years ago

    (222 items)

    James H. Kerby served as Secretary of State in Arizona 1923-1939
    This was found with a metal detector in the 1990's at Tucker Town in Corsicana Texas, late 1800's oil boom town.
    On the other side it reads; IF FOUND RETURN TO JAMES H. KERBY SECRETARY OF STATE, but he died!'s an early 1925+ Arizona Driver's License made of copper. Thanks to keramikos for the great and helpful research.

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    1. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 4 years ago
      It actually strikes me more as a keytag than watch fob...??
    2. TreasureTex TreasureTex, 4 years ago
      That's a good thought. I really never knew what it was with that size hole. I've had it for about 25 years now. I'll see if there is a category for something like that on here.
    3. TreasureTex TreasureTex, 4 years ago
      I found one just like this one with a Google search and it was found in the California area. They never said what it actually was either. They just called it an operators license as it says on it. I looked up James H. Kerby Arizona operators license.
    4. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 4 years ago
      Drivers License that went on your car key chain. They used these in the early 20's.
    5. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 4 years ago
      I believe from My recollection it was used for Taxi Drivers.
    6. TreasureTex TreasureTex, 4 years ago
      keramikos you are the best! Thank you for your help in solving my mystery. I am sure that you just helped many metal detecting treasure hunters as well.
    7. Zona114 Zona114, 2 years ago
      The court case above only shed more darkness on to what these are. These Kerby badges ARE NOT driver's licenses nor Operator's licenses. Yes Kerby had 200,000 of these made in November 1925 but the court case was about Kerby as a defendant having made these without the authority of the Motor Vehicle Registration Act. And doing it with State money! He had aspirations of becoming Governor and ran unsuccessfully twice as a Democrat. This was all about self-promotion, getting his name out to every registered driver in the state and get them to think that Kerby is doing them a big favor by returning their keys in the event they ever got lost. This gimmick was unsuccessful because like I said he never made it on the ballot. Real driver's licenses back then were paper with the driver's name, address, gender, race, and age on them. They also contained a Operator's number which matched the number on the copper tab. I know this because I own a matching license with badge. What I think has mislead people for so long was the fact that these say Operator's License on top. What it really says is Operator's License NUMBER, like the one on the real license, the paper one.
    8. Zona114 Zona114, 2 years ago
      Thank you keramikos for your additional information!
    9. BOB1418, 2 years ago
      Zona 114 I am very interested in your commentary on James H, Kerby copper Operators Tag. I have several and researching the origin found the court case you mentioned. Can you provide any additional source data relating to the promotional purpose of the tag? Newspaper article, government document, etc.
    10. Zona114 Zona114, 2 years ago
      BOB1418 Sorry I cannot provide any additional source data per your request. Please keep in mind my commentary above was based on my own personal speculation regarding the intent of Mr. Kerby and may or not be factual.
    11. ftretta, 1 year ago
      Actually, I also have one, this one 1-1518. I found it maybe 30 years ago at an old farm about to be leveled to make room for new houses. It was in the Peoria/Glendale area of Arizona. It is exactly the same as the one pictured except for the number. I recall discussing it with the historical society in Phoenix and they felt strongly it was a driver's license and that they were issued for life.
    12. keramikos, 1 year ago
      Hi, ftretta. :-)

      I can no longer recall all the details about these tags, but there was a legal case:


      Kerby v. State of Arizona


      Civil No. 4615.

      Filed April 5, 1945.


      3. STATES. — An expenditure by Secretary of State for copper license tags was not authorized by Motor Vehicle Registration Act, and hence Secretary and surety on his bond were liable to the state for money so spent where such tags were of no value in enforcement of the act. (Laws 1925, chap. 78; Laws 1927, 4th Sp. Sess., chap. 2.)


      About the 27th day of November, 1925, defendant Kerby expended and paid out of the funds in his possession collected by him under the terms of this act, the sum of $6,053.59 for 200,000 copper license tags. These tags bore on one side the words "If found return to James H. Kerby, Secretary of State," and on the reverse side the words "Operator's License." They were generally distributed throughout the state. Between the 11th day of August and the 17th day of October, 1927, he expended and paid out of the fees aforesaid, $1,375 for an audit of the books pertaining to his administration of the act, $3,035.85 for printing copies thereof, and $765 for envelopes for mailing same. On September 12, 1927, he paid out of said fund the sum of $178.68 for traveling expenses to attend the National Secretary of States' conference at Sacramento, California, on September 8th and 9th. On October 17, 1927, he paid out of such funds to himself for traveling expenses within the state of Arizona, during September and October, the sum of $176.10. The audit was deemed necessary by Kerby for the protection of public officers concerned with the enforcement of the law. It was approved by the then governor of Arizona. A copy of the audit was delivered to the state highway department, with all records, on the 28th day of October, and on or about the same day copies were delivered to all other officials interested in the administration of the Motor Vehicle Registration Act.


      [3] The item of $6,053.59 for copper license tags is clearly not an expense authorized by law. These tags were of no value in the enforcement of the law, nor were they in any way necessary or required in the carrying out of the provisions of the act. Section 13 provided specifically for the issuance of permits to drive motor vehicles. These permits were to be issued in triplicate by the various county assessors, on blanks bearing a facsimile of the signature of the secretary of state, countersigned by the assessor. The permits so issued to bear the name of the permittee, age, race, residence, trade-name and type of vehicle. Original was delivered to the applicant, one copy to be kept by the secretary of state, the third to be retained by the assessor. The fee charged for such permit was fixed at 50 cents. This was the only operator's license provided for, or required by, the act.

    13. keramikos, 1 year ago
      ftretta, I read back, and did a bit more poking around to see what I could find.

      The state of Arizona didn't require a driver license prior to 1927:

      How long that driver license was good for in those early days, or whether it had an expiry, I don't know, but it seems that even nowadays, Arizona licenses have a fairly long period of validity:

      Per Zona114, it sounds like those little copper tags had the same license number on them as the official paper records, so presumably the former could be traced to the latter.

      How that would help a driver with only the copper tag in their possession pulled over by the police back in the days before an Internet-accessible database, I don't know. };-)

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