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Harley Davidson - History


Arthur Davidson
Walter Davidson
William S. Harley

The first Harley Davidson factory,
set up in 1903
The Bar & Shield logo,
introduced in 1910
The first bike to be produced,
Serial#1 bike

The birth of the legend took place in 1903. It began in a 10'x15' shed located in the Davidson family’s Milwaukee backyard. It was made by the three brothers - William D. Davidson, Walter Davidson, Arthur Davidson and William S. Harley. The Harley-Davidson Motor Co. began its journey in 1903, with three motorcycles being built using the best available tools and their hands. Today it is well known as "king of the road". In 1909, the company introduced the V-Twin, an engine that remains the company's standard till this day. The "Bar & Shield" logo waas introduced in 1910. During World War I, nearly 20,000 Harley-Davidson Motorcycles were put into use by the U.S. military. In 1921, a Harley became the first vehicle to win a race with an average speed of over 100 miles per hour. It introduced the front brakes as standard in 1928. During the depression of the 1930s only two manufactured were able to survive, Harley-Davidson and Indian. After the closure of Indian in 1953, Harley-Davidson was the sole survivor in the American motorcycle industry. In the 1950s and 1960s the American "Motorcycle Culture" hit the bike world. Black leather motorcycle jacket changed from a fashion statement to a statement of lifestyle. In 1965, the company made public stock offerings and ended the family ownership. During this period there was an increase in the imports of cheaper Japanese motorcycles, this led to a decline in Harley-Davidson sales. But by 1986, the company had regained the top spot in the American market, surpassing Honda Motorcycles. In the same year it also returned to public ownership with a highly successful stock offering which provided the capital for the company to diversify. Harley-Davidson was hailed by President Reagan as an "American success story." By the end of 1986, Harley-Davidson had 47% of the super heavyweight market. By 1988, market share was 54%; today it is 56%.
Demand for Harley-Davidson motorcycles is rapidly increasing in Europe, Japan, Australia and other countries.