Just to explain how this question came into my mind:

There's a common joke which I read on Moroccan Website which goes like this: A man hit his wife because when he saw her ID-Card he found the words "signature of it's holder = امضاء صاحبها".

Now the point is that صاحب could mean holder or (in the joke: her) male (boy-)friend! So this was an act of jealousy.

In fact when one checks Moroccan ID Cards then one never finds a signature of the holder but the signature or stamp of the director of national security!

So my question is which country (countries) was the first to include the signature of the holder in the ID Cards and when?

Maybe I should add I mean "modern ID-Cards" from the time a photographic identification at least should have been possible!

  • You seem to assume ID cards weren't signed in the past. Do you hold a proof that it was indeed the case? Before it's independance from France (and Spain), French (and Spanish) were the official languages of Morocco, so the word play you mention in arabic language would probably not apply. On my swiss ID card, I have my signature but nothing is written to indicate that it is the signature. Other than that, all indications are made in 5 languages (German, French, Italian, Rumansh and English), so it's surprising a morrocan ID card would use arabic only.
    – Bregalad
    Mar 16, 2016 at 10:43
  • @Bregalad well maybe may assumption is wrong. but as far as i could find and conclude from the prelevant Wikipedia article we can only speak about ID Cards (as we understand it now) from the periode before WW1 on. And actually the Morrocan ID Cards are made in Arabic and French, maybe they would add Tamazight in future, as it was declared as an official language in the last constitution!
    – Medi1Saif
    Mar 16, 2016 at 10:48
  • 4
    Just a note: We don't really have required identity documents in the USA, so some of us USA people may have a hard time even wrapping our minds around this question.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 16, 2016 at 13:34
  • There's a difference in intent between 1) a signature that testifies that the information supplied is true, or 2) to validate that the document has been received and is current to use, and 3) a signature that can be compared to other documents to attest to the identity of the holder. My grade-school signature on my social insurance card (Canada) would be useless in the last case.
    – bgwiehle
    Mar 16, 2016 at 17:01
  • I read a US Attorney general paper that suggests that @bgwiehle's summary may not be accurate for the USA. That's not relevant to OP's question, which is merely at what point it was customary to sign ID cards (for those countries that have ID cards). Does anyone have any evidence on that?
    – MCW
    Mar 16, 2016 at 18:47

1 Answer 1


The idea of using photos as a means of identification is almost as old a photography itself and seems to date back to 1876 in the USA. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cards with photos and sometimes signature of the bearer were used at exhibitions (see example here - Switzerland) and for press cards (see example here - France). However, these were not labelled 'Identity Cards' and seem to have been for use only at one particular event.

The earliest Identity Card with photo and signature of the bearer I've found is this 1911 example issued by the Austrian State Railway:

enter image description here

"Austrian identity card, Identity card, front and back". Source: Luminous-Lint

Photo cards with the bearers signature seem to have become increasingly common during World War I in France, Canada, the US and other countries for military personnel, though they did not necessarily use the words 'identity card' or 'carte d'identite' (see example here).

Identity cards were also issued to American Expeditionary Forces from at least 1919, of which this is just one of several examples:

enter image description here Source: Hoover Institution Stanford University

Among civilians, foreigners and people in occupied territories were among the first to have identity cards, as (for example) in France in 1917 and the example below issued by the British authorities in Palestine in 1930.

enter image description here Attrib: Par mickyx09 [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1938, Nazi Germany introduced the Kennkarte for all civilians, and this also became a requirement in occupied territories.

enter image description here Kennkarte, issued 1940

  • 5
    So nice to see an old unanswered question get a very good and proper answer!
    – AllInOne
    Jul 13, 2018 at 17:27
  • 1
    What are the stack exchange rules about displaying personal information of private individuals?
    – bof
    Jul 14, 2018 at 1:39
  • 3
    @bof As far as I can tell, SE doesn't say anything about this other than in relation to credit cards. As these images are already available elsewhere on the internet, and as they are all deceased, I don't think there is a problem. However, I did leave out one ID card as the subject might still be living (age 98). Jul 14, 2018 at 11:58
  • the "Kennkarte" was also known in German occupied Europe as simply "Ausweiss", as that was the word German police and troops tended to use when demanding its presentation.
    – jwenting
    Nov 1, 2018 at 5:25

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