History of Harley-Davidson Motor Company

In 1903, three men from Milwaukee had a really unique view of what they thought motorized bicycling should be. In a 10 X 13 foot shed, with borrowed tools, and some metal, Arthur and Walter Davidson along with Bill Harley set out to build the very first Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Using only a three horsepower engine, the trio designed a unique loop frame, which would set it apart from any other cycle in its time. They would go on to build a total of three bikes in their first year. In 1907, the eldest Davidson brother, William, joined the team. Later that same year, after building 150 bikes, these four men followed their vision and incorporated what is today The Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

The following year found the company employing a total of 18 people and expanding into a 2,380 square foot production facility. In 1920, Harley Davidson became the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, boasting dealers in 67 countries. Also that same year, only thirteen years since incorporation, Harley Davidson enjoyed an incredible 5000 percent increase in sales.

Through the years, the Harley Davidson would prove to be the benchmark for all other motorcycles. By the end of World War I, 20,000 cycles were used in military duty. Harley Davidson would continue to dominate racing events, eventually becoming the first motorcycle ever to win a race with a top speed of over 100 mph.

Though we look back and see many changes in its design, Harley Davidson has not changed. It has remained successful by remembering its heritage.

1903 Harley-Davidson is founded
1903 The first Harley-Davidson motorcycle is manufactured
1905 The "Silent Grey Fellow" nickname coincides with the new standard grey color.
1907 The first Harley-Davidsons sold for police duty
1909 First "V-Twin" engine
1912 First clutch mechanism
1914 Stepstarter and internal expanding rear brake
1915 Three speed transmission
1916 The first issue of "The Enthusiast" publication
1922 74" Twin engine debuts
1928 Front wheel brake appears
1929 WL 45" Twin engine
1932 45" Servicar
1936 80" Side Valve Twin engine and the first "Knuckle Head" 61" engine
1937 William A. Davidson dies
1941 74" OHV Super Power engine
1942 Walter Davidson dies at age 65
1943 Bill Harley dies at age 66
1947 74" OHV Big Twin engine
1948 74" "Panhead" engine is introduced
1949 The Hydra-Glide debuts
1950 Arthur Davidson dies at age 69
1957 XLH Sportster
1958 The Hydra-Glide turns into the Duo-Glide
1959 XLCH Sportster
1960 The "Topper," a fiberglass motorscooter, was introduced.
1960 Harley-Davidson teams up with Italian manufacturer Aeronautica Macchi S.p.A. to produce a line of smaller bikes including the Shortster and Sprint models.
1965 The Electra-Glide debuts
1965 George Roeder sets a world land speed record (177.225 m.p.h.) for 250 cc motorcycles on a much modified Harley-Davidson Sprint.
1965 After being privately held for over 60 years, Harley-Davidson goes public.
1966 The introduction of the "shovel head" engine
1967 Electric start Sportster
1969 Merger with American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF)
1971 FX 1200 Super Glide
1972 1000 cc XLH/XLCH Sportster
1972 First disc brakes on a Harley
1977 FXS 1200 Low Rider and FLHS
1978 75th Anniversary models
1978 FLH 80 Electra-Glide
1978 First electronic ignition on a Harley
1979 FXS 80 Low Rider
1980 FLT rubber mounted engine
1981 Senior executives at Harley-Davidson purchase the company from AMF. Harley-Davidson once again becomes a privately owned company.
1983 President Reagan imposes additional tariffs on all Japanese motorcycles 700 cc or larger.
1983 The Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) is established.
1984 The Introduction of the "Evolution" engine
1984 First Softail models and Air Assisted Anti-Drive
1986 By offering common stock and subordinated notes, Harley-Davidson once again becomes a publically owned corporation.
1987 In an unprecedented move, Harley-Davidson petitions the ITC for early termination of the five year tariff imposed in 1983.
1988 Patented "Springer" front-end returns
1990 Dyna model is introduced
1991 All Harleys change to five speed transmission
1992 All Harleys adopt a belt drive
1992 Harley-Davidson buys a minority interest in the Buell Motorcycle Company
1993 "90th Anniversary" homecoming in Milwaukee 100,000 est. parade
1995 First fuel injection models
1998 Harley-Davidson buys a remaining 49% interest in Buell Motorcycle Company
1998 Harley-Davidson celebrates its 95th Anniversary. 140,000 plus riders are warmly received by Milwaukee to help with the celebration
2001 Harley introduces the V-Rod  
2003 Happy 100th birthday