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Pennsylvania License Plate History & Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376


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The photos on this website, whether provided by me or other contributors, are intended for use solely on this website, and may not be otherwise used without permission.  This is a reference-only website, no plate sales..

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Posting 11/19/2017

This pair of Collectible Vehicle plates is only 19 number apart, but the appearance is like night and day.  The new design is on the right.  Is it really necessary to have Collectible Vehicle twice on the same plate?  Is this 'Family of Plates' thing really progress?  If you had a choice, which plate would you pick for your collectible vehicle?  For anyone not familiar, PA is on a mission to make all plates essentially look alike.  And here we see the transition from the original all embossed format to a semi-flat new design.  Plates with the small map outline are likely to appear at CV1700.  The original design plate photo is from Ryan Battin, the new design is from Bill Stephens.


The East Brandywine Fire Company was added to the list of organizational plates in late July.  At that time they had no plates on the street, and thanks to Tom Perri we have the first photo of an issued plate.  Tom runs the PA highs page aka  It appears that the fire company has about 7 in use.


Back on October 22 it was announced that Alvernia University had plates on the street.  Currently about a dozen plates have been issued.  It didn't take long for Tom Perry to find and photograph this low numbered plate.  Many thanks go out to Tom for his persistence and diligence in photo-documenting so many of the plates posted on this website.  I can't mention Tom without including Jordan Irazabal of the Delaware 3000 — great teamwork.


Here's a vanity issue of a St. Joseph's University plate.  This plate was also photographed by Tom Perri.  Click the photo to enlarge it.  It is plain to see the sticker well that the owner choose not to use for sticker placement.  The St. Joe's plate program dates way back to 1985.


Here's the latest Combat Infantryman Badge plate thanks to Tom Perri.  These plates first came out in 2014, and have now made the transition to the latest base with the map outline, and without the sticker well.  It is not known at what point this change took place, only that it was between 20121C/O and the plate shown here.


Some changes have been made to the Disabled Veteran section starting with the DV-79000 series.  That's is the group of plates issued in pairs for vehicles equipped to carry assistive devices on the rear such as a wheel chair or battery powered personal mobility device.  Upon examining that plate picture further, it is clear that it is the latest version with the DV plates withe the DV and plate legend flat screened.  I'm now calling that 2-plate DV-79000 series Format 9.  In addition, the DV vanities and the plates above DV-36750, I am listing as Format 10 and 10A respectively.


This 1953 Miscellaneous Dealer plate is a little nicer than one previously posted.  For 1953 there was also New Car Dealer (A-series), Used Car Dealer (B-seies) and Transit Dealer (C-series) plates.  No Transit Dealer plates have surfaced so far.  It is also still unconfirmed when that series began.  It could be as early as 1946.


These two gems make great additions to the 1933 Truck plates group thank to Eric Tanner.  Weight classes that year started at R and went to ZZ as indicated by the first letter.  All 1933 truck plates measured 6" by 15".


The next truck plate to be added this week is this R-Class 1944.  With plates being limited to 5 characters, it meant that 4 different sequence formats were needed including the following: R000A, R00A0, R0A00 and R00AA, with this plate being part of the second group.  All plates were 6" by 11".  This image was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


These Format 2 and Format 3 1947 Trailer plates have been added to the mix.  Five different serial progressions were used including 0001 to 9999, A000 to Z999, 0A00 to 9Z99, 00A0 to 99Z9 and 000A to 999Z.  Format 1 and 5 plates are still needed to complete the run.


This is a 1948 Format 1 Trailer plate.  Like the '47 plates described above, the '48s also used 5 serial formats.  This was largely due to plates being limited to 4 characters.  Click the link to also see Format 3 and 4 plates.  The source of this plate and the Trailer plates above is unknown, possibly eBay several years ago.  Let me know if you own any of these plates.


This 1977 Trailer Dealer plate helps fill the gap for that year.  Although the plate is marked dealer with no other identifying legend, the E10-000E serial format was the distinguishing feature.  The series likely began in 1971, but I'm still in need of plates for '71, '72, '74 and '78.  It should be noted that most of the higher number E00-000E plates in the undated '84 thru '94 period were not trailer dealer plates as the alpha-numeric prefix system were merged together so that the alpha characters no longer represented a particular group.  This plate photo was provided by eBay user hpr4661.


This is a 1946 Truck plate, Class R weight limit, with serial format 1.  For 1946 there were 5 R-class serial formats used including R000A, R00A0, R0A00, R00AA and R0AA0.  All plates had 5 characters with the first letter designating the weight class.  All classes had at least one additional letter in the serial number which was never next to the weight class prefix.  This photo came from the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


Here's another R-weight class truck plate, with this one being from 1951.  Beginning with 1949, there were so many R-Class trucks that 6 format variations were used.  All truck plates had 5 characters and measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  This photo also came from the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


The final plates this week is this 1952 R-Class Truck.  Again 1952 plates were 6" by 11", however, this was the final year for that size with the next few years' plates measuring 6" by 10".  This photo also came from the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.  By now you're probably tired of me droning on about truck plates.



Posting 11/12/2017

Nick Tsilakis recently spotted this Disabled Veteran plate.  Note this is the first Disabled Veteran photo with the DV and plate legend flat screened and with a sequential serial number.  This format has been previously seen on DV vanities. This plate also moves the changeover point to DV-36750, this is also based on an older inventory report.  This plate also flies in the face of all the recent changes to the 'family of plates' visitPA base.  This is because the law that authorized this plate also spelled out how it will be configured from the standpoint of color and appearance.


Well we knew it was coming, and now it's here.  The plate on the far left is what the Conserve Wild Resources - Otter plate will look like henceforth.  This came about thru PennDOT's effort to give every plate the 'family of plates' look.  Note the plate now has a 5-digit all numeric format after the R/C prefix, and has the small map outline whare the sticker well used to be.  The R/C9X92 on the near left is what the plates looked line from February of 1999 until October of 2017.  In fact, the high on that series was R/C9X99.  I have previously expressed my opinion on such matters.  The only remaining full canvas plate is the Preserve Our Heritage - Railroad plate, and how long can that survive?  The far left plate is from Ryan Battin and the full canvas plate is from Tom Perri and Colin M.


This is the second Apportioned Bus plate on the visitPA base spotted in the past several months.  Initially there was a large inventory of BN plates on the www base so it took many years and more recently an increase in the number of Apportioned Bus registrations to finally bring about this change.  One anomaly on the latest edition is the use of the dash separator instead of the keystone separator, although this has been seen with a few other plates.  Thanks for Jordan Irazabal for the use of his photo.

I am desperately seeking information and/or photos of any older BL Apportioned Bus plates.  What little history I have is inconsistent.


Here's the latest high number Operation Iraqi Freedom plate photographed by Jordan Irazabal.  This plate series dates back to 2005.  Even with this plate being the latest reported high, it still has the sticker well.  So far the map outline on military plates has only been seen on the active duty - AD suffix plates.


Here's another image of the latest Municipal Government plate photographed by Steve Ondik.  These were first seen in early February of this year starting at M/G9000J.  Since that time they have advanced into the K-suffix, with the final letter being the last to advance.  The MG series started out in 1971 and were later replaced in 1977, with some of those '77 bases still on the street.


After all these years "You've [still] got a friend in Pennsylvania".  This 1983 base vanity was spotted in use on 11-11-17, and with a 10-17 sticker.  The owner said the current base was starting to show its age, so he put the older plate back into service.  He's been questioned by police on a few occasions.


This 1950 Miscellaneous Dealer plate photo came from Kelly Brewer some years ago and was hiding in my archives.  In 1946 regular dealer plates were split into multiple sub-groups, i.e., New Car Dealer (A000A), Used Car Dealer (B000A) and Miscellaneous Dealer (X0000, 0X000).  At some point in time there was also a Transit Dealer (C000A) added; however, as of today, we don't have evidence to establish a starting year.  Back to the plate shown here, this is a nice example of a plate with the X in the first position, the photo gallery also has a photo of a plate with the X in the second position.


This 1948 Format 2 Passenger plate image was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.  Format 2 plates ran from A100 to Z9999 as both 4- and 5-character plates; however all plates were 6 inches by 11 inches.  There were some 10 serial formatting progressions for 1948.


This 1950 Format 8 Passenger plate photo also came from the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.  Format 8 plates ran from AA100 to ZZ999, so despite MD101 serial it likely was a standard issue plate, and not a series put aside for medical doctors.  On the other side of the argument, almost from the beginning, low number plates and plates with initials were sought after, and the BMV was often willing to accommodate such requests.


Here's a 1952 Format 8 Passenger plate.  This format consisted of plates from AA10 to ZZ999, so both 4- and 5-character plates were a part of this run.  Plates were all 6" by 11", however, this was the last year for 11-inch plates.  After '52 plate size was reduced to 10" until plates were standardized to 6" by 12" in 1956.  This photo came from the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


This very nice 1929 Class V Truck is thanks to Eric Tanner.  For 1929 truck weight classes went from R to ZZ.  Plate progressions for this class went from V-1 to at least V11-326.  2, 3 & 4 character plates measure 6" x 10", 5 character plates measure 6" x 13", 6 character plates measure 6" x 15", as shown in this photo.


This partial, but very impressive run of 1932 Truck plates was made possible thru the kindness of Eric Tanner.  For 1932 truck weight classes went from R to Z, minus the X, for 2-axle trucks, and from RZ to ZZ minus XZ, for 3-axle trucks.  Plates from the 3-axle series are very tough to find. 


This 1947 T-Class Truck plate was photographed at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.  For 1947 there were the normal weight classes from R thru ZZ.  This being a T-class plate it was one of three serial formats, with this plate being part of the T000A series, which would have run to T999Z.  The other formats included T00A0, T0A00.  Click the link above to see another T-format, and several other weight classes.  


Here's a 1958 YZ Class Truck plate with a 63 validation sticker.  So what's a YZ Class Truck?  For 1958, truck classes were divided up not only by weight, but also by the number of axles, and also if it was a straight truck or truck tractor.  Click the link above to see a table with the breakdown of all the classes; however, it does not list weight classes by gross vehicle weight (GVW).  The plate shown here is for a 3-axle truck straight truck.  Thanks to Clayton Moore for sharing this very nice plate photo.


Posting 11/5/2017

A few articles have been floating around about PA vehicles with expired registration stickers and out-of-state travel.  Larry Resnick also shared a news article.  An unintended consequences of PennDOT not issuing renewal stickers is vehicles traveling outside of PA and being stopped by police for what appears to be an expired registration.  AAA recommends removing the old stickers as follows: • Apply heat with a heat gun or hair dryer set on low. • Use a razor blade, preferably plastic, to loosen a corner. • Carefully run the razor blade beneath sticker as you peel. • Use a wet sponge to remove some of the tough adhesive and continue to peel. • Clean remaining residue with window cleaner, rubbing alcohol or adhesive remover.  Image from Clayton Moore.


Bruce Bufalini spotted this Community for Pittsburgh Ultimate plate.  This is a large Frisbee club based in Pittsburgh.  Their plate program dates back to about 2006 and about 30 plates have have been registered since that time. 



This is the first Rails-to-Trails Conservancy plate photographed in a vanity format.  Rails-to-Trails plates have been around sine 1997 starting out on the yellow on blue base. The reported high, according to Tom Perri's PA Plates website, is R/T01507.  Thanks to Brendan Sherry for the photo.


This University of Pittsburgh plate helps narrow the range where the map outline was added.  The highest recorded plate without the map is U/P05165.  As far as I know organizational plates that have transitioned to the graphic style are produced on an order-for-order basis, not stockpiled as they were at one time.  So the transition point may not occur at predictable point.  This photo also came from Brendan Sherry.


This far left photo was snapped by Bruce Bufalini and is the Municipal plate high before the changeover to the family of plates with map outline shown on the near left.  That plate was previously provided by Bill Houser.



Here's the latest in Antique Vehicle plates, and for the first time showing the map outline.  While this plate is in the S series, I believe based on a reference document that the R and the S series were produced as a group, therefore the R series likely has the map outline as well.  The photo was snapped by Jordan Irazabal.


Last week we posted an image of a C-series Special Mobile (Equipment) plate.  The biggest change is that the plate legend now fits between the holes.  In the past it read SPECIAL MOBILE.  While this plate is considered the new high, it still has the sticker dimple and no map.



This 1936 Format 2 Dealer plate was photographed at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.  Sorry for the marginal quality of the picture.  Format 2 plates had the 'X' in the second position.  Plates that were 2, 3 and 4 characters measured 6" by 10", 5 character plates were 6" by 12".



Here's a 1939 Format 1 Dealer plate.  Like the plate above, this is also measures 6" by 10".  Also like the plate above, the 'X' could be in the first, second or third position, and plates could be 5 or fewer characters.  Five character plates were 6" by 12".  The photo was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


Next is this 1936 Format 2 Passenger plate.  For 1926 there were nine different serial progressions and two sizes — 6" by 10" for 4-character plates, and 6" by 12" for 5 character plates.  1936 was the final year for passenger plates without the map outline border.  The photo was also taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


We move ahead to this 1938 Format 8 Passenger plate.  From 1937 until the Bicentennial plates in 1971, all passenger plates had the map outline, and now part way thru 2017 we see a vestige of it.  Like the '36 plate above there were nine different serial progressions and two sizes, both 6" by 10" for 4-character plates, and 6" by 12" for 5 character plates.  The photo was also taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


Here's a 1942 Format 2 Passenger plate.  By 1942 there were 10 serial progressions consisting of 4 or 5 characters.  Like the passenger plates above, they were issued in two sizes, 6-inch by 10-inch and 12-inch, depending on the number of characters.  The photo was also taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


Here's a 1928 S-Class Truck plate.  From 1924 thru 1933 there was no legend on the plate indicating that it was a Truck plate.  The key to identifying the plate type was from the weight class prefix.  The S-Class plate ran from S-1 into the S53-000 series.  In addition we have photo displays of S-9 and S-47 plates which are all 6" by 10" plates.  Apparently the dash doesn't fit on the 10" plate with S+3 digits.  Click the link above to see additional examples.  Thanks to John Willard and John Anshant for the opportunity to photograph this plate..


This 1937 T-Class truck plate was photographed at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.  For that year the T-Class plates used three serial progressions as follows: T000A, T00A0, T0A00, with this plate being part of the last series.  Most truck plates were 5 characters and measured 6" by 12"; however, within the R- and S-series there were some 6-character plates measure which measure 6" by 15".


The final entry this week is this 1941 R-Class truck plate.  The R-Class is the lightest weight class.  Serial formats included R000A, R00A0 and R0A00.  This plate was also on display at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.  All 1941 truck plate measured 6" by 12", and were issued in pairs.  Note that this is the first year for the expiration date (EXP. 3-31-42) to be part of the top border.


Posting 10/29/2017

Here's the latest edition of a Press Photographer plate showing the small map outline in place of the sticker well.   I'm going to suggest that this plate is either a vanity or a re-make of an earlier issue.  The photo was taken in Philadelphia.  To see older issues of this plate type, click this history link.


Here's another image of what is thought to be the newest version of the Fire Fighter plate.  It has all the features of an organizational plate with the logo and plate legend all being flat screened.  The only thing missing would be the state map outline.  This plate appears to still have the sticker well.  While this is listed as an organizational plate, there is not an organized group of fire fighters or fire departments that oversee this plate.  Applicants, however, need to secure the signature of their fire chief in order to get one.  This plate is once again available as a vanity.  Thanks to Brandon Sowers for the use of this photograph.  This plate is also a new high.


This Special Mobile (Equipment) plate was recently spotted by Nick Tsilakis.  This is the first plate photographed in the 'C'-prefix series.  Nick points out that the tag legend, SPECIAL MOBILE, has now been narrowed to fit between the bolt holes, a definite improvement in the plate's appearance.  The plate does not appear to have the small map outline.  To see older issues of this plate type, click this history link.



This Gettysburg 1863 - Pennsylvania Monuments plate was spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  The plate is a new series high.  This plate program dates back to 2014 and is part of the group of Special Fund plates.  The was no earlier version of this plate with the graphic covering the full plate as several other Special Fund plates have had.


This Gold Star Family plate image was provided by Jeff Lawson. At first glance this might look like a new high, however, the current reported high is G/S/F0688, far lower than this plate.  The other more likely explanation is that this is a vanity plate.



The far left picture is a terrible photo of a U.S. Navy (Active Duty) plate.  I tried chasing the vehicle in traffic and this is the best of two efforts.  It's also the first image of the armed forces active duty series.  Plates became available in May of this year but the plates so far have been very scarce.  The other plates of this series include Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Marines.


I'm in the process of revising a number of existing plate sections including the section on current Repair Towing plates.  As a result a few older, but still current, examples have been added including the three shown here. A couple have also been removed.  Click the link to see the section.  The center plate was provided by Steve Ondik.  Click this link to see older plates.


I really don't put much effort into tracking DCNR plates, but I spotted this ATV Class 1 plate recently and snapped the photo which shows that DCNR apparently has not given up the the use of renewal stickers like PennDOT has.  For anyone not familiar, DCNR or the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources issues several classes of plates for ATVs.


This is a 1934 Dealer Format 2 plate.  For 1934 the Bureau of Motor vehicles had a new method of formatting Dealer plate.  The legend 'Dealer' was added to the plate for the first time since 1923, and the familiar X as the designator was dropped.  Format 1 was all numeric, and Format 2 allowed for A1 to Z999.  This formatting kept all plates to 6" by 10" size.  Pardon the poor photo — I need to make some changes in technique.  The picture was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


Next addition is this 1938 Dealer.  It's a Format 3 plate which basically means the 'X' has progressed into the third position.  This is a 6" by 12" plate, while plates with 4 characters measured 6" by 10".  Click the link above to see a Format 1 example.



Here is a 1943 Dealer tab.  Click the photo to enlarge it and you can read the serial with the X prefix and serial number below the 3-31-44 expiration date.  The plate belonged to John Willard and John Anshant.



This 1928 Tractor Dealer is courtesy of Tim Gierschick.  And thanks to Tim, there are now two such plates displayed here.  Tractor Dealer plates before the mid-1950s are very tough to find, in fact I'm still missing quite a few years.  Tractor Dealer plates used the TX prefix from the beginning in 1916 up thru 1970 except for couple years in the mid-1930s when 'Tractor Dlr' was used as the plate legend.  In 1977 the TX prefix got repurposed to designate Taxi plates.


Here's a 1985 base Motorcycle plate with a 4-89 validation sticker.  I consider this a vanity plate because in 1985 Pennsylvania was not issuing any plate series starting with 1.  This very nice plate photo was provided by Chuck Harrington.



Here is a 1922 Class 3 Truck plate.  The first number in the sequence is thought to designate the weight class that the vehicle is licensed for.  The colors were brown on cream.  All truck plates from 1920 thru 1923 used the word commercial, and for 1922 the length of the plate legend forced all truck plates to measure 6" by 16"


This nice pair of 1926 Truck plates photos was provided by Eric Tanner.  They represent the V and W weight classes.  These both measure 6" by 15".  The W class plate contains only 5 characters.  It's interesting that some (most?) 5 character plates measure 6" by 13" but I'm thinking the width of the W made it easier to use the larger size.


This fine trio of 1927 Truck plates was also courtesy of Eric Tanner.  Here we have three 5 character plates representing the U, W and Y weight classes.  Note that like the '26 plates above, the plate with the W user a wider 15" base while the others measure 13".  Also note that the '27 plates use a smaller height alpha character than the '26 plates above.


Posting 10/22/2017

The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine has an organizational plate on the horizon.  At this time no plates have been issued.



At this point in time it appears that Alvernia University has several plates on the road.




Jeff Lawson snapped this image of a Girl Scouts of the USA plate recently.  Tom Perri's PA Plates website lists the high serial number as 00075G/S.



This International Brotherhood of Boilermakers photo was taken by Jeff Lawson.  This group has had a plate program since 2012, and a current high of at least 00076B/M.



Next up is this personalized version of a Combat Action Ribbon plate, obviously owned by a Marine.  This plates type is part of a series of five plates available to recipients of combat medals, ribbons and badges.  They were first issued in late 2014.  The photo was snapped by Jordan Irazabal.


Brendan Sherry snapped this photo of a U.S. Coast Guard Veteran plate.  It's also a new high number for this plate type.  These plates have been around since 2009.



Here's a recent California University plate photo from Brendan Sherry.  The full name of the facility is California University of Pennsylvania, and it's located in California, PA, which is south of Pittsburgh in Washington County.  Tom Perri's PA Plates website lists 00233C/U as the current high.  Program dates back to 2009.


Here's a pair of Penn State Alumni Association vanity plates.  The far left plate is the latter issue with the state map outline, and was provided by Brendan Sherry.  The P/SNLION (Nittany Lion) plate is an earlier issue and was provided by Steve Ondik.


This Motor Home plates is a new high, and was provided by Steve Ondik.  This means that some 60,000 plates have been issued since the inception of the HH series back in 2006.  Looking further back, these plates were first issued in 1977 but with the awkward name House Car, which used the prefix HC.  Eventually the term House Car was replaced with Motor Home.  There was also a progression of prefixes.  After the original HC came HD, then HF, HG and finally HH.  HE was kept aside for Hearing Impaired.


Here is what is likely a 1971-72 Senatorial Staff parking plate.  The photo came from Chuck Harrington.  Could be that the 54 refers to a parking space.  Plate was likely front mounted or placed on the dashboard.  Click the link to see additional state senate plates.



Switching to plate history, this plate makes a nice addition to the 1922 Dealer series.  It is a Format 1 plate with that series running from X1 and going to X999.  Click the link above to see a pair of Format 2 plates.  All Dealer plates that year measured 6" by 16".  The photo was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


Next is this 1928 Format 1 Dealer plate.  Although it's full of rivets, it's a fine plate example.  One problem — I don't know who owns the plate and I would like to give credit for the use of the photo.  Please contact me if you own or know who owns this plate.  This plate is an example of the 6" by 10" format, and along with the other two '28 Dealer plates shows all three sizes of Dealer plates used that year.


Here is a 1930 Format 3 Dealer plate.  Format 3 plates consisted of serial numbers of 00X to 99X99, and both 10" and 12" bases were used.  This plate measures 6" by 12".  Click the link to see more on formatting and a photo of a Format 1 plate.  The photo was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.


This pair of 1931 Dealer plates are good examples of Format 2 plates which series ran from 0X to 9X999.  As shown here both 10" and 12" bases were used.  Click the link for and additional photo.  Like the 1928 plate above, I would like to give credit for the use of the 3X7 plate photo.  Please contact me if you own or know who owns this plate.


This 1922 Passenger is a welcome addition.  This plate from Eric Tanner fills a gap in the Format 2 serial progression.  Format 2 included plates from 1-000 to 9-999.  These brown on cream plates measured 6" x 12".  There were also 6" x 13" and 6" x 16" plates to accommodate 5 and 6 digit serial numbers.  Note the use of strap slots as well as bolt holes.


Here's another gem from Eric Tanner.  This is a 1923 Passenger Format 2 plate which includes the series 1-000 to 9-999.  This plate is 6" x 12".  A total of 5 sizes were used based on the number of characters.  Later in the production run plates from around 883-000 and above used a different die set which allowed the largest plate size to be reduced from 16" to 15".  I'm in need of one of the 6" by 15" plate photos.


This is a 1917 Truck plate with a 2-star weight class rating.  These plates used 1 to 5 stars to depict the weight class, with a single star being the lowest.  Plates were white on brown.  The S prefix was used on all 1917 truck plates regardless of weight class.  This 100 year old plate was photographed at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles



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Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376