Production of the first Harley-Davidson began in 1903, when William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson, took Harley's blueprints for a V-Twin engine and mounted the engine to a bicycle frame. This first motorcycle was built as a pure racing bike and was produced in a 150 square foot wooden shed.
The first sold production model of a Harley-Davidson was to Henry Meyer who had been a school friend of William S. Harley and by 1904 the first ever Harley-Davidson dealership opened its doors in Chicago, Illinois, and sold the second produced Harley-Davidson Motorcycle.
By 1905 the competition spirit of Harley Davidson was made known to the world when a Harley-Davidson motorcycle won a 15 mile race.
By 1906, Harley-Davidson Motorcycles was ready to upgrade from their 150 square foot wooden shed to a 2,240 square foot manufacturing facility where the company also had 6 employees and by 1907, Arthur Davidson's brother quit his job working for a railway and joined Harley-Davidson just in time for the company to be incorporated for the first time. This incorporation proved great for Harley-Davidson as it was able to manage a stock split the following year which allowed Harley-Davidson Motorcycles to once again upgrade to a factory twice its size as well as doubling the number of employees.
By 1908, the Detroit, Michigan Police force was patrolling the streets on Harley-Davidsons, which started an onward trend in the Civil Service sectors for Harley-Davidsons, their motorcycle soon became a highly demanded vehicle for police use throughout the United States.
1912 marked a big year for Harley-Davidson Motorcycles as they broke ground on a new 6 level corporate headquarters as well as exported their first motorcycles to Japan. This exporting opened up the first international dealership and made a grand total of 200 dealerships worldwide.
The first Harley-Davidson with a sidecar was released in 1914, but thanks to the up and coming war, by 1917, one third of all Harleys produced were sold directly to the United States Government for military use.
In 1920 Harley-Davidson was able to officially use the title as the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world as they had by this time over 2,000 dealerships in 67 different countries including the U.S.
The Second World War also left the U.S. Government calling to Harley-Davidson once again to produce motorcycles for the military. Their civilian production ceased completely allowing Harley-Davidson to focus solely on the military's need. During this time Harley was also able to manufacture a unique military release only motorcycle which featured horizontally opposed cylinders, but due to the military moving out of the African desert and into Northern Europe only one thousand of these unique Harleys were ever produced.
With 1954 marking the year that the Indian Motorcycle Company shut its doors, the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company was now able to have complete control as the only major American motorcycle manufacturer, which allowed Harley-Davidson the ability to offer their first production snowmobile 18 years later.
Harley-Davidson left AMF in 1981 thanks to 13 senior executives who signed a letter of intent to purchase back the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Once again the Harley-Davidson company was their own, without outside forces controlling the interests of the hogs.
Harley-Davidson was also able to control the market of Japanese Motorcycles by petitioning the International Trade Commission to place a tariff on all stockpiled Japanese motorcycles in the U.S.
The Harley-Davidson bought a controlling interest in Buell Motorcycle Company in 1998 from one of their former engineers, Erik Buell who left Harley to start up his Buell Motorcycles.
Original Authors: Nicholas
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 07/06/2008