Harley Davidson Increases Production

Travels with Harley

Last week Travels with Harley left you with the Harley Davidson entrepreneurs moving into the new workshop, which they had built themselves.

Travels with Harley

After moving into the new Harley Davidson factory/workshop on Juneau Ave. in Milwaukee, WI in 1906, Harley and the brothers Davidson produced 50 Harley Davidson motorcycles in the first year in the new factory. In 1907, Harley Davidson became a corporation and by the year 1909, had hired 35 staff members, and increased the size of the factory by two. That same year, they produced about 1,000 Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Travels with Harley

William S. Harley was obsessed with improving his Harley Davidson invention and started working on a two-cylinder engine design. After an unfortunate false start, Harley Davidson perfected the two-cylinder engine in 1909 and called it the, “V-Twin.” The V-Twin could reach top speeds of 60 mph and became a huge success. Because of the V-Twin, Harley Davidson became known as the company that built fast and reliable motorcycles. In 1910, Harley Davidson produced 3,200 motorcycles.

Travels with Harley

True entrepreneurs Harley Davidson was constantly looking at ways to market the company and promote sales. “The Wrecking Crew,” was a motorcycle racing team sponsored by Harley Davidson and was known for a, “By the seat of your pants,” racing style. Thanks to the fame that was generated by, “The Wrecking Crew,” Harley Davidson remained in the news while stimulating sales at the same time. Not one to rest on its laurels much of the Harley Davidson profits went straight back into product enhancements and engineering.

Travels with Harley

In 1912, Harley Davidson had another engineering breakthrough with a chain that would replace the leather drive belt. Just four years later, the step starter replaced the pedals finally removing themselves from the humble bicycle image. However, many people still depended on bicycles as an inexpensive way to get around, including the United States government.

Travels with Harley

Always looking for inventive ways to market Harley Davidson motorcycles, Arthur Davidson became determined to convince government agencies, including the United States Postal service that Harley Davidson was the new replacement for the bicycle.

Arthur Davidson’s strategy worked, and in 1914, the USPS owned 4,800 Harley Davidson delivering mail, with the military become attracted to the fast and rugged Harley Davidson motorcycles as well.

Travels with Harley

Growing in leaps and bounds, Harley Davidson production had reached 28,189 motorcycles annually becoming the largest motorcycle manufacturer on the planet. However, problems were about to occur when America suffered a mild depression back in the early 1920’s, causing Harley Davidson sales to slip, not to mention the release of Henry Ford’s cheaper and more practical Model T.

Next week comes the trials and tribulations of the greatest motorcycle story ever told in Travels with Harley.

The Harley Davidson Entrepreneurs

Travels with Harley

Harley Davidson is the most well known motorcycle in the world as well as the oldest. Harley Davidson truly is an American Icon and is the symbol of pure inventiveness, pioneering spirit and individualism. However, the world’s most recognized bike, the Harley Davidson, was actually invented out of laziness.

Travels with Harley

Back in the late 1800’s, the bicycle enabled people to get where they wanted to go faster and farther with millions of people all over the United States exploring every corner of America using the humble two-wheeled bicycle. Nevertheless, that wasn’t quite enough for William S. Harley, a draftsman at the tender age of 21 and pattern maker Arthur Davidson who had just turned 20.

Travels with Harley

In 1901, both of these young men, who had been friends for years, embarked on a mission to, “Take the work out of bicycling.” Their dream, which is still going strong today, was to build a bicycle with a motor that would allow folks to travel fast and reliably without using pedal power.

After sitting in the garage one night, William and Arthur realized that their dream could not be achieved without a mechanic, so they asked Arthur’s brother Walter to lend them a hand. Arthur was a railroad machinist who quit his job after the boys promised him a ride on their motorcycle.

Travels with Harley

Once Walter arrived in Milwaukee, he quickly discovered that he would have to help the two build the motorcycle before he could actually take it for a ride, but regardless, he stayed anyway. William, the oldest of the Davidson brothers who was a foreman in the tool room at the Milwaukee railroad shop also decided to step up and pitch in.

Travels with Harley

Work began in a 10 by 15 foot wooden shed with the name, “The Harley Davidson Motor Company,” painted on the door. The shed sat in the back of the Davidson home. Harley had top billing because, after all, it was his idea to build the motorcycle in the first place.

 

Travels with HarleyThe first three Harley Davidson motorcycles were produced by the four men in 1903 and, like early motorbikes at the time, had a single-cylinder engine, a bicycle crank, a leather drive belt, and of course, pedals. To start the bike, all you had to do was pedal, until the compression had built up, and ride away.

Travels with Harley

The next few years were all about development with the partners building three more motorcycles in 1904 and another seven in 1905. Thanks to the growth of the company, the partners had to move to a factory that they built in Milwaukee on Juneau Ave in 1907.

So, what happens next? We will share more about the Harley Davidson partnership in next weeks, “Travels with Harley blog.”