Act 207 Regulating Motor Vehicle Speed (1913)

Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

On May 23, 1913, Governor John K. Tener signed into law Act 207, amending an act originally approved several years earlier, in 1909, “Relating to motor-vehicles; regulating their speed upon the public streets and highways of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; providing for their registration, and the licensing of operators … “The legislation directed the State Highway Department to transfer revenues derived from the registration of motor vehicles and from the licensing of motorists to the Department of State Treasurer to be used for “the improvement of the roads of the Commonwealth.” Under the Sproul Highway Act signed by Governor Tener on May 31, 1911, the role of the State Highway Department, originally created by Governor Samuel W. Penny­packer, was further expanded and the Commonwealth agreed to a 50 percent match for the funds raised by counties and townships through bond issues to improve and repair roads located within their jurisdictions. After voters rejected the bond issue plan, however, Act 207 em­powered the auditor general to draw from the highway funds generated by licensing fees held in the custody of the state trea­surer for the purpose of constructing, maintaining, improving, and repairing Pennsylvania’s more than nine thousand miles of roads. Like the creation of the Insurance Department in 1911 and the Public Service Commission (later the Public Utility Commission) , and the Penn­sylvania Historical Commission (the present-day Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) in 1913, this legis­lation is an example of Tener’s support for Progressive-era reform programs that even included backing for women’s suf­frage (see “Major League Governor John Kinley Tener” by Richard C. Saylor in the summer 2005 issue).

A circa 1913 photograph entitled “Our Inheritance” depicts an example of an early roadway bridge lo­cated in Monroe County that direly needed upgrad­ing. The Highway Department used images such as “Our Inheritance,” as well as hundreds of lantern slides and photographic print cards, to docu­ment conditions of roads and bridges before and after construction projects; today, these images can be found in the Photographic Unit’s File of Mounted and Unmounted Prints, circa 1913-1932 (Series 12.12) in Record Group 12, Records of the Department of Highways. Similar glass plate images and lantern slides of highways and highway construction projects are contained in the Applications File circa 1907-1910 (Series 26.25) and the Lantern Slide File, circa 1907-1930 (Series 12.26), of Record Group 12.