The history of this popular motorcycle company began in Milwaukee, WI in
1903. This is where Bill Harley and Arthur Walter Davidson met, became friends, and
together built a one cylinder engine. Around the turn of the century the gasoline engine was
developed and the one cylinder motor was released. The Indian motorcycle was produced in
1901 and thereafter the Mitscuell, the Merkel and then the Yale in 1903. All were powered
by a one cylinder gasoline combustion engine that was initially made for racing.
In 1903 in Milwaukee Mr. Harley and Mr. Davidson developed there own one cylinder
cycle. It was reliable and an even better looking bike and someone bought it. By 1905
they had produced 11 bikes and they sold as well. By 1908 they had sold 154. This was the
The company was now growing . They started in a little wooden barn built by Davidson’
father. The small company grew fast and another member of the Davidson family joined the
team. By no time at all the company expanded quickly into 20 employees. By then they
had moved into a stone factory especially built for building motorcycles.
In 1909 Bill Harley made a prototype of the first 10 cc v-twin engine. This put out up to 7
horsepower. This v-twin quickly became the most recognized image of Harley Davidson.
In 1910,they developed the legendary “Bar and Shield” logo that was placed on their bikes.
This became the defining symbol of the company and is sued to this day. These special
Bikes took first place in races, endurance contests and bill climb which gave Harley
The F-head engine was introduced in 1911, It would be the power workhorse until 1929,
When the flathead engine was introduced.
The year 1912 brought further growth. Construction began on a new 6 story factory.
Mr. Harley and Davidson started to travel overseas where in Japan they made their first
overseas sale. Back in the US there were now over 200 dealerships.
In 1914 the first Harley Davidson side car was born. They also entered there
bikes in the racing world and would dominate the sport and became known as the wrecking
1915 saw the emergence of the three-speed sliding-gear transmission. By 1917 one third
of all Harley Davidson’s were sent overseas. The U.S. Military used Harley’s to fulfill to aid
in the war effort. The next year one-half of the motorcycles made were sold to the U.S.
Military. By the end of the year 20,000 motorcycles were used in the war most of them
were Harley’s. By this time Harley was the biggest motorcycle company with almost 2000
dealerships worldwide. They also had the biggest factories in the world. Even through the
depression they survived. The v-twin was Harleys specialty so the company tired to defeat
its only remaining rival, Indian. But in those days it was hard because the mororcycles got
out of date and prices for automobiles had decreased. Harley then tried some other
like manufacturing parts, side cars and even airplane engines, while improving their own
The 1920’s brought some more changes. They change the gas tank into a teardrop shape.
This became the most recognizable look of the Harley even today.
In 1928 the first twin-cam engine with front wheel brakes became available. This
Allowed the motorcycles to reach speaeds in excess of 85 mph. By 1932 they had made
more record breaking and award winning Harleys. The company also introduced the first
servi-car. This was three wheel bike that quickly became a commercial and police vehicle.
They also put out the eagle design which they had painted on all Harley Davidson’s.
Today the biggest Harley produced in the 1340 cc. This bike became a trademark....
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