|The History of Harley Davidson Motorcycles
Today, Harley Davidson motorcycles are a household name, but
it hasn't always been that way. It began way back in 1901,
when a young man named William S. Harley had a vision for
attaching an engine to a bicycle.
William had a friend named Arthur Davidson who embraced his
concept. Together, they began working endless hours in a small
wooden shed, with the words "Harley Davidson" scrawled on the
door. By 1903, they rolled out the first production Harley
The legendary "Bar and Shield" logo became the defining symbol
of Harley Davidson motorcycles in 1910. The logo is
representative of strength and ruggedness. The design was
patented in 1911 and continues to be used today.
In 1920, motorcycle racing legend, Leslie "Red" Parkhurst,
broke numerous speed records on a Harley Davidson racing
motorcycle. Each time Parkhurst won a race, he would carry a
pig on a victory lap and it was during this time the term
"hog" became associated with Harley Davidson motorcycles.
During World War I nearly half of the Harley Davidson
motorcycles produced were sold to the United States Army.
Throughout the 1920s, major changes took place to the design.
The most notable was the change in the gas tank, which was
switched to the now infamous teardrop shape. In 1928, Harley
Davidson introduced the first twin-cam engine and front wheel
brakes. These modifications allowed Harley Davidson
motorcycles to reach speeds in excess of 85 mph.
Throughout the 1930s, Harley Davidson motorcycles continued to
break speed records and won multiple awards. Harley Davidson
further expanded into commercial and police vehicles through
the introduction of the three-wheel Servi-Car.
Appearance changes were made to Harley Davidson motorcycles
and included the famous "eagle" design, which was painted on
all Harley Davidson gas tanks. During this time, the trademark
1340 cc engine was introduced and the "Knucklehead" motorcycle
Between the years of 1941 through 1945, Harley Davidson ceased
civilian production of motorcycles and focused solely on
providing reliable motorcycles to the U.S. Armed Forces during
World War II.
When civilian production resumed, Harley Davidson motorcycles
were in high demand. The organization expanded and purchased
the A.O. Smith Propeller Plant to be used as a machine shop.
Here they manufactured motorcycle parts and shipped them to
the factory for final assembly.
1947 saw the introduction of the "Panhead" Harley Davidson
motorcycle, which was deemed "THE American Motorcycle". Two
years later, hydraulic front brakes were introduced on the
The 1950s were filled with challenges and triumphs. During
this time, the British captured nearly 40 percent of the
motorcycle market with their ever-popular Triumph motorcycle.
Harley Davidson owners knew they would have to get creative if
they were to remain at the top.
To compete with the smaller, sportier motorcycles coming from
Great British, Harley Davidson developed the side-valve K
model with an integrated engine and transmission. Today, the K
model is known as the Sportster.
1953 marked the 50th anniversary of Harley Davidson
motorcycles. The organization marked this event by creating a
special logo which included a "V", with a bar overlaid reading
"Harley Davidson" and the words "50 Years American Made".
Every motorcycle manufactured in 1954 had a medallion version
of the logo placed on the front fender.
During the 60s, Harley Davidson scaled down production and
offered the only scooter bike ever produced. It was also
during this time that the Sprint model was introduced. Other
innovations included the electric starter and the introduction
of the "Shovelhead" engines.
The 70s brought about transformation of the Harley Davidson
motorcycle. A new Sportster racing motorcycle was introduced
in 1970. One year later, the FX 1200 Super Glide cruiser was
introduced; along with the first Harley-Davidson snowmobile.
1977 brought the Harley-Davidson Low Rider to the forefront
when it was debuted to the public in Daytona Beach. Later in
the year, the Café Racer was released.
Last, but not least, Harley Davidson introduced the FXEF Fat
Bob in 1979. This bike has dual gas tanks and bobbed fenders.
It was featured in Hollywood films and quickly became a
favorite of the American public.
During the 80s, Harley Davidson went through considerable
internal changes and more attention was focused on motorcycle
racing. One of the most notable changes occurred in 1986, when
Harley Davidson became listed on the American Stock Exchange.
In the 1990s, Harley Davidson expanded its U.S. operations to
include a multi-million dollar paint facility, a new
distribution center, power train plant, and production
facility. Harley Davidson also opened a new assembly facility
Brazil, the first operations outside of the U.S.
Since the beginning of 2000, Harley Davidson has exploded the
marketplace with a variety of new and exciting motorcycles.
These include the Softail Deuce; the Buell Blast, Firebolt,
and Lightning; the Road King Custom; and the Street Glide.
Today, Harley Davidson owns more than 60 percent of the
motorcycle market share. Considering their history and
reputation, chances are good that Harley Davidson motorcycles
will be around for another 100 years.