Following the post Resources for the Kansas Busybody
a few weeks ago, a reader emailed me wondering about the rhyme or reason of the two-letter county abbreviations.
Side note- said reader also let me know about a puzzle made for a daughter needing to memorize the two-letter abbreviations. This puzzle is amazing! The word on making the puzzle- "The tabs contain the two-letter abbreviations,
so the entire puzzle can be completed, even if you don't know where each county
is located. It is made of corrugated
cardboard with the map pasted on, then cut out with a razor knife. It was a fun--if time-consuming--project.
Back to the history of the abbreviations. After a fruitless web search, I placed a call to the Kansas Historical Society to see if they had any resources about the abbreviations. Here's the word from KHS-
"The 2 letter county abbreviations were created apparently between 1949 and 1951 when the law was passed that changed the appearance of Kansas license plates. Early plates were distinguished by a number assigned to each county that reflected their population, i.e. no. 1 was the most populous county. In 1949 the Legislature changed that to a two letter code, "The license tags for the year 1951 and thereafter shall be lettered, numbered, and designed as follows: Those to be used in each county shall be lettered separately with the first letter of the name of the county at the left, and another letter chosen from the name of the same county at the right or below, which two letters shall be as distinctly indicative of the name of the county as possible.
" (revision of the Kansas Statutes section 8-147 passed February 22, 1949 and revised again in 1951).
The statutes say the State Highway Commission was supposed to submit all the information necessary for producing the plates to the state prison.
The State Corporation Commission was supposed to determine how many actual tags would be needed for each county. But I didn't find any place that actually reported who created the two letter code that was used. It's possible more details could be found in the records of the Highway Commission or newspapers from that time, but we have not indexed any articles or clippings that describe the process and it isn't reported that specifically in the Highway Commission's Biennial Report."
Other Semi-Related Resources
PS- If anyone has other questions or curiosities, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org