The Harley Davidson Company (HD) was started a
little over 100 years ago. In 1903 two friends began the company in Milwaukee,
Wisconsin. The name was formed from both of their names. They took the “H” from
William S. Harley and the “D” from Arthur Davidson.
William and Arthur began work on the prototype of thier motorcycle. They
eventually added the expertise of Arthur's brothers: Walter (a skilled mechanic)
and William (an experienced toolmaker). All four men formed the HD Company,
which was later incorporated.
In 1903 Harley Davidson made 3 motorcycles, but each one was bought and paid for
before completion. These first HD motorcycles went for $200.00. The motorcycles
were gray and people who rode them were called the "Silent Gray Fellows."
By the final months of 1905 HD began to add on to their product line by selling
motorcycle motors, marine motors, reversible propellers and float feed
The popularity of the Harley Davidson motorcycle grew through out the following
decade. By the year 1914 The Harley's were used by 9 departments of the U.S.
federal government. The U.S. Postal service itself used more than 4,800 Harley
Davidson motorcycles for rural mail delivery.
The U.S. military began to use Harley Davidson motorcycles when taking care of
border skirmishes with Pancho Villa in 1916. These motorcycles, however, were
equipped with machine guns. HD motorcycles were also used in World War I. It was
about this time that the Harley Davidson Company first realized the need to set
up a service school for the motorcycles.
In the 1920's WWI ended. Motorcycle racing had started to become very popular.
Harley made quite an impression in these times.
In the 1930's Harley Davidson, along with the rest of the country, suffered from
the Great Depression
By the 1940's we were engaging in World War II. Harley Davidson was contracted
to make military motorcycles once again.
In the 1950's there were new and more aggressive marketing strategies used to
help the company expand. The Korean War was also raging, but by this time the
military Jeep had taken the place of the military motorcycle. The Harley
Davidson Company could now focus its attention on the civilian market.
The 1960's brought about changes for Harley Davidson. The company had begun to
expand into producing 3-wheeled golf carts. They actually had a third of the
U.S. golf cart market cornered by the end of that decade. The company expanded
even further into sizable line of motorcycle accessories.
In the 1970's Harley Davidson had made advancements in the racing bike division
of the company and enjoyed recurring success in the racing arena. In later years
of the 1970's Harley Davidson introduced its own brand of snowmobile.
In the 1980's Harley Davidson returned to private ownership. The company renewed
its interest in building better machines. They even went on to win a contact
with the California Highway Patrol (CHIPS)in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989.
The most customized factory motorcycle was introduced by Harley Davidson in the
1990's. Harley made the FLSTF Fat Boy. This bike was remindful of the past but
was still current with the standards of the day.
Harley Davidson still remains strong today. Their current line of bikes includes
the Sportster, the Dyna, the Softail, the VRSC and a Touring line. Each line of
bikes has several different models to choose from. The price of the Harley
Davidson line can run anywhere from $6,000 and $25,000.
The Harley Davidson was at one time thought of as a gang motorcycle. Today when
you see bikers on the road they are most likely doctors and lawyers. People from
all walks of life still look to Harley Davidson for the class and quality they
want in a motorcycle.
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