Ride that bike
That bike? The Harley Davidson! A humble begin. A team dedicated to perfection.
The first bike was officially completed in 1903 by the Harley Davidson Company.
It began unofficially in 1901 with 21-year-old William S. Harley.
He drew the plans for a small engine displacing 7.07 cubic inches with 4-inch flywheels. It was designed for use on a regular pedal-bicycle frame.
He was helped by his friend Arthur Davidson and his brother Walter.
To complete their first engine-powered bike, they used the machine shop of Henry Melk, another friend . This prototype was not powerful enough to propel the motored-bike up Milwaukee’s modest hills. The rider had to resort to pedal power.
The first “real” Harley Davidson Motorcycle was completed with the help from another Davidson brother named William. The engine was bigger with 24.74 cubic inches, 9-3/4 inch flywheels and 28 pounds weight
The new bike was ready by September 08, 1904. It made its first appearance in a Milwaukee motorcycle race.
The first three motorcycles were produced in 1903, followed by 3 more in 1904. In 1905 production rose to 8 completed bikes. This allowed Walt Davidson to quit his job with the railroad. He became the company’s first full-time employee. His aunt, Janice Davidson used her artistic talent to letter and pinstripe the bikes: black with gold trim.
The legendary motorbike was born.
In 1906, the first Harley Davidson Motor Company factory was a modest wooden structure on Chestnut Street, now Juneau Avenue. This location remains the Motor Company’s corporate headquarters to this day with stores all over the world.
In 1907 William S. Harley graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in mechanical engineering. The factory was expanded. And production increased from 50 to 150 motorcycles.
1907 was also the completion of a prototype, the 45-degree V-Twin engine. It displaced 53.68 cubic inches and produced about 7 horsepower, doubling the hill-climbing power of the first bikes.
In 1908 the production increased to 450 motorcycles up to 1,149 in 1909.
Success was granted. The original factory was replaced and expanded. Bikes produced by Harley Davidson began to dominate the motorcycle racing arena.
In 1914 production reached 16,284 units!
The first World War increased the demand for motorcycles in the military.
The factory provided over 20,000 units to military forces.
After the war, the company continued to improve and produce.
It was one of 2 American cycle manufacturers to survive the Great Depression.
During the second World War and Korean War the company continued to provide machines to the military. The Jeep then replaced it in popularity.
The Harley Davidson Motor Company is still going strong. HOG, on the Stock Market. A good investment. Bike or share.
Did you ride THAT bike?
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This is very informative & helpful article with lots of new & exciting details and things to learn about, great job!
It was really fascinating learning about Harley Davidson bike history, especially for someone with very little knowdlegde regarding HD bike as myself. I found few details to be very fascinating, like the fact that the first bike was officially completed in 1903 by the Harley Davidson Company, however unofficialy it started by 21-year-old William S. Harley in 1901.
Also, what I’ve found to be interesting is that the prototype version didn’t have enough power to propel the bike up Milwaukee’s modest hills, so they had to team up with nother Davidson brother- William and improve the specifications and the build of the bike to achieve those wanted results.
I also didn’t know that there was such huge increase in bike production from 450 motorcycles up to 1,149 in 1909, wow!
Keep up the good work 😉
Yes… humble start and what a result over the years.
I find it a very inspiring story too. Never to give up. And also to see how tight family bands overcame all difficulties.
Glad you liked the story… still fascinating and a real exploit!
This was a fascinating read! Thanks for your research on motorcycles. I had forgotten that their stock sign is HOG (ha!). Love it. I’m assuming you ride bikes. Do you have a favorite modern Harley? I’m not in the market currently, but it would be a fun hobby to take up sometime in the future. Good to know some American Bike History!
Thank you. Fascinating history indeed.
My brother just bought one and our neighbour parades with one … and my grandma used to ride one as well. I do not ride… car injuries won’t allow me.
Fascinating bike indeed…. they come in all shapes… just meet your needs.
Just make sure to have the boots and protective clothing…