The History of Harley Davidson

Few motorcycle companies boast the success of Harley-Davidson throughout its 100-years history. The company was founded by William Harley and the three Davidson brothers; Arthur, Walter, and William. The company’s story began in 1901 after the designing of a small engine fixing it to a regular bicycle frame. For over two years, William Harley together with Arthur and Willian Davidson worked on the design. However, on completion, the project was abandoned the bike couldn’t traverse the small hills of Milwaukee’s, USA.

Later on, the founders decided to come up with a bigger engine with a unique frame. The project took place in Davidson’s backyard shed, and upon completion, their first bike model debuted in September 1904.  In 1905, Harley-Davidson opened its first dealership and sold the first three motorcycles made by the company, before expanding its operations and building a new factory along Chestnut St. Site later renamed Juneau Avenue. The pioneers hired six full-time employees before this number doubled in 1907 as the company experienced continued growth after its incorporation. The Harley-Davidson founders split the company shares four ways among themselves. Upon Harley completing his mechanical engineering degree, the company experienced an increase in production to 150 motorcycles and the birth of the company’s signature brand the V-Twin. In subsequent years, the company experienced an exponential increase in its production and in and in 1914, the company produced 16,284 units, thus surpassing Indian as the leading race motorcycle producer.

Harley-Davidson Success in Hard Times

During the World War I, use of motorcycles during combat was widespread. As a result, the production levels of bikes supplied to the US forces hit 15,000. The company’s soaring sales continued, and by the close of 1920, Harley-Davidson was the leading motorcycle manufacturer in the world. During the Great Depression, company sales plummeted from 21,000 in 1929 to 3,703 in 1933, and despite the drastic reduction in sales, Harley Davidson was one of two motorcycle companies to survive. In the 1940s after the break out of World War II, the company shifted its focus from the production of civilian motorcycles in favor of producing military bikes. This shift resulted in a rise in sales that saw the company build over 90,000 bikes for Allied forces in what was a boom period for the producer.

Road to the Top

The company’s domination continued in through the 1950s and the1960s despite many failings along the way including an oil crisis in the 1970’s which hit the company hard. However, after introducing the Fat Boy model, the company’s regained its status as the market leader.  Harley Davidson’s supremacy would later face competition from the increased number of imported Japanese models to the U.S during the 1980s.

On April 1, 1983, a successful petition to the International Trade Commission for tariff relief which lasted five years was approved with an aim to fight off stockpiling of inventories by Japan manufacturers in the US.  Among the company’s most outstanding achievements include the formation of the Harley Owners Group or the H.O.G in 1983 which went on to become the world’s biggest factory-sponsored bike club. The abbreviation H.O.G is the company’s symbol in the stock market.