In 1935 the General Assembly authorized the establishment of the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program. The North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program is one of the oldest such programs in continuous operation in the United States.
Prior to 1935 the North Carolina Historical Commission (established in 1903) and private organizations (such as the Daughters of the American Revolution) sponsored a small number of historical markers and plaques. The state program, modeled after one begun in Virginia in 1926, was an effort to standardize the practice of marking sites of statewide historical significance.
The silver and black markers have become a familiar part of the state's landscape since the first one was put in place in Granville County on January 10, 1936. To date over 1,400 state markers have been erected. At least one stands in every county.