Alabama state law called for the registration of vehicles as early as 1903. However, no license plates were required to be displayed on the vehicles. Various Alabama cities rushed to fill that gap, passing laws requiring their own vehicle registration and ordering motorists to provide their own plates. City registrations date to 1905 for Mobile, and other cities soon followed. By 1909, cities were issuing annual porcelain plates in Birmingham, mobile and Montgomery. The city issues ended in October of 1911, when the 1912 plates were first issued.
THE HEART OF DIXIE was introduced with the 1955 plate and has been a fixture through 1993 on Alabama plates.
In 1955, a large heart was introduced with the county number inside. In 1956, the county number was removed and put back in as part of the serial, and the size of the heart was reduced. The smaller heart was placed at the lower left corner of the plate and remained there until 1976. The 1977 issue had a heart at upper left that contained the HEART OF DIXIE slogan inside. It also had the State Capital at centre, the state flag at lower left and the Bicentennial star at lower right. The 1983 issue simplified the style, showing the heart with the slogan inside at upper left. The 1987 issue showed the slogan across the top and red hearts in the upper corners. The 1992 issue had Alabama across the top, with a small HEART OF DIXIE immediately below. The word OF is inside a heart.
The word PRIVATE was used on all private automobile issues from 1922 through 1927. For 1937, the front plates had the word FRONT embossed on them. In the late 1930s, an arrow was used to mark the space of missing digits on the low-numbered plates.