No, 1901 is not the year the first Harley-Davidson logo was created. It’s in 1904 that Arthur Davidson’s Aunt Jane Davidson painted “Harley Davidson Motor Company” with a red stripe on the door of the shed where he worked with William S. Harley, but it’s only in 1910 that the famous Bar and shield logo in orange and black was registered with the patent office. It seems that nobody knows who designed it, why a bar & shield, and what was the inspiration for the choice of colors.
The logo didn’t change much (some motorcycle emblems were created) until 1933, year the Eagle was introduced as a patriotic symbol to stimulate sales after the great depression. This Eagle was treated in the Art Deco style of the times.
In 1954, to celebrate its half a century anniversary, a V logo was created and appeared on all this year’s models. In 1960, Harley-Davidson bought 50% of Aeronatica-Macchi, forming Aermacchi Harley-Davidson, a European division whose vocation was to produce small displacement, single cylinder motorcycles. As you know, the company still uses the bar & shield logo although with some minor geometric modifications. Its popularity with the public at large is due to the fact that Harley-Davidson licenses its logo for many (too many, say some) products, from coffee to bed sheets to pool tables. It is estimated that Harley-Davidson receives every year from different brand a total of about $50 million in royalties for the right to use its logo.