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.”