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The history of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle began in Milwaukee in 1903. In Milwaukee, Bill Harley and Arthur Walter Davidson developed a one-cylinder motorcycle. Around the turn of the century the gasoline engine was developed and the one-cylinder motor was introduced. In 1901 the Indians were the first motorcycles and in 1903 Mitschell, Merkel and Yale.
This motorcycle was initially built for racing and was powered by a one-cylinder gasoline combustion engine.
Picture from 1916
In 1903 in Milwaukee, Bill Harley and Arthur Walter Davidson developed a one-cylinder motorcycle. It was a reliable and even a beautiful cycle. And ... someone bought it !! In 1905 they had made 11 motorcycles, in 1908 it were 154 and ... they had a company, in a little wooden barn, that was build by Davidson's father.
The small company extended quickly and another member of the Davidson family, William, joined them. In no time they hired about 20 employees in an especcially build stone-factory.
In 1909 Bill Harley made a project of the first 1000 CC V-Twin. It produced a modest seven horsepower. The 45-degree V-twin would become one of the more recognizable images of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. This V-Twin stayed with HD for a long, long time. Maybe it's hard to believe, but Harley-Davidson didn't invent the V-twin !! When Bill Harley developed one, he just followed the tendency of the time.
1910 brought the legendary "Bar and Shield" logo that was placed on their motorcycle. This would become the defining symbol of Harley-Davidson to this day. Numerous first place winnings in races, endurance contests and hill climbs give Harley-Davidson more recognition.
The "F-head" engine is introduced in 1911. It will be the power workhorse until 1929, when the "Flathead" engine is introduced.
Arthur & Walter Davidson, William S.
Harley and William A Davidson (1915)
The year 1912 saw further growth of the Harley-Davidson Company. Construction began on a new 6-story factory. Harley-Davidson also became an exporter this year and their first overseas sale was made in Japan. In the states there were now over 200 dealerships.
1914 saw the addition on the sidecar to the Harley-Davidson. The Company also formally put their hand in the ring of motorcycle racing this year and would soon dominate the sport and become known as the "Wrecking Crew".
The F-Twin "Silent Gray Fellow" from 1915
was called that way due to its color and its silent motor
1915 saw the emergence of the three-speed sliding-gear transmission. In 1917, one-third of all Harley-Davidsons were sent overseas to the U.S. Military to fulfill their patriotic call and to aid in the war effort. The following year, roughly half of the motorcycles produced were sold to the U.S. military. In the end, about 20,000 motorcycles were used in the war, most of them Harley-Davidsons. By this time Harley-Davidson was the biggest motorcycle factory in the world with nearly 2,000 dealerships worldwide. In 1918 Harley-Davidson was the biggest motorcycle factory in the world. They even survived the depression. The V-twin was Harley's specialty, so the company tried to defeat its only remaining rival ... Indian.
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