How Harley and Davidson Came Together to Create Motorcycle Magic

Harley Davidson Motorbike from 1921. Photo by Lars-Goran Lindgren Sweden CC BY-SA 4.0

For motorcycle enthusiasts everywhere, the name Harley-Davidson is a legend. The brand has long been known as the manufacturer of some of the best motorcycles on the road, but how did the company get its start?

William Harley and three Davidson brothers, Arthur, Walter and William, were behind the company. His dream began in the late 1800s, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when the men were still children living on Ninth Street, and their families were neighbors.

Arthur Davidson and William Harley were of the same age and interests, and their almost inevitable friendship quickly formed and their entire lives came to an end.

Founder of Harley-Davidson Motor Company Wm. a. Davidson, Vice President and Works Manager; Walter Davidson, President and General Manager; Arthur Davidson, Secretary and Sales Manager; William S. Harley, Treasurer and Chief Engineer. December 1920.

According to Thotko, like many boys at the time, two friends became fascinated by bicycles, which only in the 1880s were we recognizing as today., a site for motorcycle enthusiasts, says that William's love for bikes was so serious that, by the time he was 15, he had a job at a bike factory in his hometown, and thus Set out on his life path. .

William S. Harley, mechanical engineer and co-founder of Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

Over the course of several years, William worked in the factory, eventually becoming a draftsman. He was interested in bikes, and was particularly attracted to the idea of ​​finding a way to add an engine that would allow for much higher speeds than pedaling.

In 1901, at the age of 21, he created his first blueprint for internal combustion engines based on the design of early French motorcycle engines. Over the next two years, William and his old friend Arthur decided to work on a prototype.

The first motorcycle, made by Harley-Davidson, was developed by William Harley and Arthur Davidson. Photo by Cjp24 CC by SA 3.0

That first machine was never very physical, but by 1903 men started working on a second prototype. It didn't take long for them to find out that they needed a skilled machine to help propel the project, so they started trying to recruit Arthur's brother. , Walter, who, according to the entrepreneur, was working as a railroad machine to accompany him.

It was a bit of work about their progress, and some precise construction, but William and Arthur quit Walter their jobs and joined the first construction of their new machines.

Don Whitlock's Harley Davidson. December 1915 on Vine Street in front of the lift driveway of Davis Brothers.

His factory was a 10 × 15-foot shed on Chestnut St., and is still the location of the H-D headquarters. Harley began engineering at the University of Wisconsin the same year, and perfected his craft.

The final part of the process of making his first motorcycle fell when Davidson's oldest brother William began to take interest in the project. William was a mechanic, and had plenty of useful skills to add to the mix.

With the men each adding their own unique skills to the project, their first motorcycle was completed - Harley-Davidson Serial # 1. That bike is still around today, on display at the H-D Museum in Milwaukee.

The company joined others in 1907 with Walter as its first president and others in other top positions.

The eldest brother, William, became the first task manager, Arthur was the first secretary and general sales manager, and William Harley, who had completed his engineering degree, became treasurer and chief engineer. That year, HD produced 150 machines, tripling its production.

In 1911 Harley-Davidson works.

By 1908, Walter won a perfect score of 1000 points in the 7th Annual Federation of American Motorcycle Enthusiast Endurance and Reliability competition, according to As a result, Detroit became the first city to purchase and use H-D motorcycles for its police force.

By 1910, the Bar and Shield Harley-Davidson logo was in use, and an icon was born. After that, the company continued to prosper and innovate, becoming one of the most well-known brands in the motorcycle world. None of the four founders lost their passion and enthusiasm for motorcycles.

All of them worked for the company until he died, Arthur Davidson worked with them all until he finally passed in 1950.

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