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Harley Davidson History
Davidson Motor Company began in 1903 when William Harley, aged 21, and Arthur Davidson,
aged 20, made their first production motorcycle . The Harley Davidson racing
motorbike was built in a 10' x 15' shed in Milwaukee. Walter Davidson, Arthur's brother, joined the
guys soon afterwards.
William Davidson joined the group in 1907
after quitting his job as a railroad foreman.
The Harley Davidson Motor Company was incorporated the same year and the stock
was split between the four founders. By this time the shed
had been replaced by a new 28' x 80' factory and 18 staff
were building the bikes.
Word spread rapidly of the toughness of Harley-Davidson's motorcycles
as the guys built a dealer network across America. The
Harley-Davidson bikes were winning races, endurance and reliability
contests and even set an economy record at 188.234 miles per gallon.
The Detroit police department took delivery of their first
police motorcycle in 1908.
The famous Harley Davidson "Bar & Shield" logo was trademarked at the U.S. Patent office
The Harley Davidson Racing Department was formed in 1913 and the team became known as the "Wrecking Crew" because of their dominance of
A pig, the team's mascot, was carried on a victory lap after each race
win, thus beginning the HOG association. Nowadays, the Harley Owners
Group® is the largest factory-sponsored motorcycle club in the world with
over 500,000 members.
During World War I, the US military bought most of
the new Harley-Davidson motorcycles and the first American to enter
Germany, Corporal Roy Holtz, was riding a Harley-Davidson.
The guys continued their dominance of motorcycle racing, breaking
numerous speed records and winning countless races and endurance contests,
claiming National Championship on dirt and track.
By 1920, Harley-Davidson was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world
with over 2,000 dealers in 67 countries.
The distinctive teardrop shaped gas tank was on all H-D models by 1925, setting
the basic appearance for all subsequent Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
In 1931, all but two American motorcycle manufacturers remained -
Harley-Davidson and Indian
made by Hendee Manufacturing. These were the only two
bikes made in the USA until 1953, when Indian went out of business.
The art-deco "eagle" design was painted on all gas tanks in 1933.
H-D began these special styled motorcycles mainly to stimulate the sales
in the Depression.
The 1936 "Knucklehead" EL with increased horsepower and bold styling
A new land speed record of 136.183 mph was set in 1937 by Joe Petrali on a modified Harley-Davidson 61 cubic inch overhead valve-driven motorcycle.
When America entered World War II, Harley Davidson again produced the
majority of US Military motorcycles, winning four Army-Navy "E" Awards for excellence in wartime production.
By war's end, 90,000 WLA Military Motorcycle models were produced.
The classic black leather motorcycle jacket was first marketed by Harley-Davidson
During the next ten years, Harley-Davidson continued to dominate dirt and track
motorbike racing and introduced various new models including the Panhead
and Hydra-Glide models.
Harley-Davidson celebrated its 50th Anniversary in
1953 creating a celebration logo depicting a "V" in honor of their famous engine with a bar overlaid reading
"Harley-Davidson, 50 years American made." Ironically, Indian
motorcycles went out of business the same year.
The photo to the left appeared in 1956 showing a young star Elvis Presley
on cover of the May Enthusiast magazine sitting on a current model model KH.
Click the link to buy the poster!
The following year the Sportster was introduced, becoming famous
as the first of the "Superbikes." In 1958 the Duo-Glide debuted,
only to be replaced by the famous Electra-Glide in 1965.
A rarity appeared in 1960 - the Harley-Davidson Topper motor scooter, the only scooter the Motor Company ever
Harley-Davidson have gone from strength to strength, purchasing a half interest in Aeronatica-Macchi
in 1961, 60 percent of Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Company in 1962 and
merging with American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF) in 1969. By
1981 senior executives of H-D purchased Harley-Davidson Motor Company from AMF
with the cry "The Eagle Soars Alone".
The Harley Davidson Motor Company listed again on the American Stock
Exchange in 1986, and in the same year purchased Holiday Rambler Corporation,
a manufacturer of motor homes.
Harley-Davidson bought a minority interest in the Buell Motorcycle
Company in 1992 and the remaining stock in 1998. Erik Buell created
BMC to manufacture American sport motorcycles using
the Harley-Davidson XL 883 engine.
Harley Davidson continue to win races and produce
world class motorcycles, introducing the
1965 Electra-Glide, the Sportster line, the
1966 "Shovelhead" engine, the 1971 Super Glide, the 1977 Low
Rider, the 1984 Softail, the 1990 Fat Boy, the 1991 Dyna Glide, and the
1995 Road King.
New models of these bikes are continually introduced
and loved by motorcycle aficionados the world over. Whether its the
distinctive sound, the stylised look, the many customised parts and
accessories and/or the whole scene associated with Harley Davidson - there
is no doubting this is the world's most popular motorcycle.