Kerby Tags


James H Kerby

Very little has been known about these Kerby tags. Most just assumed they were early Arizona drivers'
licenses. After all, they do say Operator's License on top don't they? But not so fast, here's what we do know now.

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At left is a 2-digit tag from Apache County, Far-right from Greenlee County
Above center, the only known paper license with matching number to a tag, (see pic at top of page).
Large red number at center is the county. Click license for LARGER Image.

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James H. Kerby was born in Missouri on April 30, 1881 to prominent pioneer residents. He came to Arizona
around 1907 settling in the mining town of Clifton. He soon became County Assessor for Graham County and
later the first Assessor of newly-formed Greenlee County. He served as Arizona's Secretary of State for two terms,
1923-28 and again in 1933-38. Coincidentally, successors to each of his two terms died while in office. The first one
John C.Callaghan after just 20 days at the position. Kerby had hopes and dreams of becoming Governor one day.
Those dreams included getting his name circulated and in this case into the pockets of as many Arizona residents as he could.
During the '20s it was common practice to attach a tag with address onto one's keychain. And in the event one loses his or her
keys the finder could track you down, not the most prudent thing to do nowadays. Since Secretary Kerby had the names/addresses
of all registered drivers in the state he was able to distribute a tag to all, but with more privacy since the finder now would not have
access to the addresses and his office would be able to return them, a precursor to the B.F. Goodrich and DAV tags which followed.
By doing everyone this big "favor" he hoped to "earn" their vote. This gimmick didn't quite turn out as planned.
Mr. Kerby ran unsuccessfully twice for the Democratic nomination for governor. Kerby also ran unsuccessfully as an
Independent candidate for governor in 1938. But there was one other lingering problem, these were produced/distributed without the
authority of the Motor Vehicle Registration Act. Democrat Kerby used monies received from title and license fees for self-promotion.
Excess money in this account was supposed to be turned over to the state treasury. This was all revealed in a court case filed
several years later. Below is taken from that case.

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