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Harley-Davidson history – The Birth of Harley-Davidson

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS – Harley-Davidson History

1901 – A 10′ x 15′ shed in the Davidson family’s Milwaukee backyard serves as the birthplace to an American icon and the beginning of Harley-Davidson history. Arthur Davidson, 20, and William Harley, 21, began experiments on “taking the work out of bicycling.” Now if you doubt that bicycling was any work, try and remember what people were riding 100 years ago and you soon get the picture. In all honesty, they were mechanics and inventors who came upon the idea to motorize a bike rather easily. At that time in history there was a new invention called the horseless carriage so it was a logical progression to come up with the idea to fit a smaller combustion engine to a bicycle. Soon after, the duo were joined by Arthur’s two brothers Walter and William. In two years they produced 3 motorcycles and the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Co. was born. It makes you wonder which one didn’t get a bike that year?

Arthur Davidson William Harley
1881 – 1950 1880 – 1943
Walter Davidson William Davidson
1876 – 1942 1870 – 1937

1- Ole Evinrude the outboard engine designer helped develop the first engine that was key in Harley-Davidson history .
2- There was a 1902 prototype with a 10.2ci, (167cc), single with 2.125″ X 2.875″ bore and stroke with a 5″ flywheel. It had enough speed to blow your hat off at 25mph.

 Harley-Davidson history - the first model in 1903

  • 1903 Many changes were made to the engine design before its builders were satisfied. After the new looped frame was finalized, they were ready to begin production. 1903 production: 3 motorcycles.
  • 1906-07 Harley-Davidson erected its first building at the current Juneau Avenue site in 1906 and they incorporated in 1907. 1907 production: 150 motorcycles. It’s also notable that in 1907 Police forces began buying the Harley Davidson motorcycle and enjoyed the speed and freedom they needed to apprehend criminal types. To date, it is the number one choice of law enforcement agencies around the globe including Asian countries.

Harley-Davidson history is rich in innovation and social impact. The company’s dedication to continually improving it’s product and the effect it has on their customers creates a bond that is deep in both national pride and brand loyalty. From the very beginning the company made a concerted effort to preserve Harley-Davidson history by saving an example of every model of bike built. While not all are visible to the public the vast majority of the company’s innovations and key historical elements are available for viewing at the company’s museum which incorporates a restoration shop and is overseen by the company’s historical curator.

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  1. I have always been interested by Harley-Davidson motorcycles and the culture that accompanies them. Learning a little bit of the history just makes them that more intriguing. I did not know that only 3 motorcycles were produced in 1903. Do we know where these three bikes are? Thank you for sharing the interesting article!

  2. well boiis any one up to by my harley dudus

  3. William Vogelsang

    Because, just as Tracy Redmond stated; NONE of the founders of Harley-Davidson were born outside of The U.S.A. Which kind of means that The Davidson Legacy Cottage just outside of Dundee has NO direct relevance to Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company.

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