Down Memory Lane With Harley-Davidson

It’s the weekend. More time for you to read and improve your knowledge of Harley-Davidson history.

Harley-Davidson’s origins trace back to the time when four young Americans tried their hands at internal combustion in a tiny wooden shed. The shed was burnt down, but the motorcycle that they built went on to serve 5 different owners. And that was just the beginning. 1901: William S. Harley, age 21, completed a blueprint of an engine designed to fit into a bicycle. 1903: William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson made available to the public the first production Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The bike was built to be a racer, with a 3-1/8 inch bore and 3-1/2 inch stroke. The factory in which they worked was a 10 x 15-foot wooden shed with the words "Harley-Davidson Motor Company" crudely scrawled on the door. 1907: Harley-Davidson Motor Company was incorporated on September 17th. The stock was split four ways between the four founders, and staff size was more than doubled from the previous year to 18 employees. Factory size was doubled as well. 1909: The first V-Twin engine was introduced. The image of two cylinders in a 45-degree configuration would fast become one of the most enduring icons of Harley-Davidson history. 1910: The famed "Bar & Shield" logo was used for the first time. It was trademarked at the US Patent office one year later. 1920: Harley-Davidson became the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. New Harley-Davidson motorcycles could be purchased from over 2,000 dealers in 67 countries worldwide. 1933: An art-deco "eagle" design is painted on all gas tanks. This marks the beginning of graphic designs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles (with the exception of previously special order-only paint schemes). This styling decision was made in part to stimulate the low sales numbers caused by the Great Depression. 1947: Harley-Davidson begins selling what will become the classic black leather motorcycle jacket. 1953: Harley-Davidson celebrates its 50th Anniversary. An attractive logo is created, depicting a `V’ in honor of the engine which had brought the company so far, with a bar overlaid reading `Harley-Davidson’ and the words, above and below, `50 years-American made. 1960: The Harley-Davidson Topper motor scooter is introduced and is the only scooter platform the company ever produced. 1971: In response to the customizing craze, Harley-Davidson introduces the FX 1200 Super Glide, which combined a sporty front end (similar to that of the XL series) with the frame and power train of the FL series. A new class of motorcycle, the cruiser, is born. 1983: One of Harley-Davidson’s most unique endeavors begins: Harley Owners Group. Fondly referred to as HOG, the Group immediately becomes the largest factory-sponsored motorcycle club in the world. Within six years, HOG membership soared to more than 90,000. By the year 2000, it exceeded 500,000. 1986: The Company was listed on the American Stock Exchange, the first time Harley-Davidson was publicly traded since 1969, the year of the AMF merger. Harley-Davidson executives had in 1981 bought back the company from AMF (American Machine and Foundry). 1993: Harley-Davidson celebrates its 90th Anniversary in Milwaukee with a Family Reunion. An estimated 100,000 people ride in a parade of motorcycles. 2001: The VRSCA V-Rod was introduced for the 2002 model year. Inspired by the VR-1000 racing motorcycle, the V-Rod was Harley-Davidson’s first motorcycle to combine fuel injection, overhead cams and liquid cooling, and delivered 115 horsepower. 2003: Harley-Davidson’s 100th Anniversary celebrated. 2006: Harley-Davidson unveiled plans for an all-new museum in Milwaukee, scheduled for opening in 2008.

Cyril Huze