In 1996, Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania and Director of Homeland Security, said, “Whether you like history, admire fine art, or are a sailing enthusiast, the Flagship Niagara license plate is truly unique. It depicts in full color The Battle of Lake Erie, the spectacular painting by renowned 19th-century artist Julian O. Davidson .”

It seems particularly appropriate that a license plate, which is meant to travel roads and cross state lines, reminds us of the interstate cooperation and commerce that were essential for building, equipping, and manning the fleet that was built in Erie, Pennsylvania.

In its issue of March 3, 1997, TIME magazine reported that nearly a half million dollars had been raised for the state’s Historical and Museum Commission through sales of the license plate. This was the first time a full color painting had ever been reproduced on a license plate, and it won the 1996 coveted “Best National Plate” award. More than 30,000 plates were sold that year. The plates were originally produced with stamped raised registration numbers and as unstamped decorative front plates for classic cars and trucks; today they are valued as collectibles.