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Visual Timeline History of Harley Davidson Motorcycles


Harley: Tracing the Roots of a True American Company

Want to learn more about the history of the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company? Here, we present to you some of Harley’s finer moments. These moments make Harley Davidson the choice of cyclists, commuters, or just anyone that want to show-off their gleaming new hog. Hopefully, some of these events will demonstrate why.

The Early Years

Harley began as a simple venture to outfit bicycles with motors. Founded by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson, they begin selling these bikes around 1903. Only 6 years later, they introduced their first V-twin powered bike. By the time of 1920, they had grown to be the largest maker of motorcycles on the planet. Graphic design in the company soon became important by around the mid-1930s, when they began to paint an eagle design on the tanks of all their products. In the early to mid-1940s, Davidson manufactured bikes exclusively for the war effort in the US. During these years, they made somewhere around 90,000 bikes, just for military use. These models were known as WLA models, and never sold to civilians. However, they did introduce plenty of soldiers to the joys of motorcycling.


After WWII, Harley came roaring back. They started to produce their famous black leather jackets only 2 years after the end of WWII. This was a time of innovation and creation for Harley. The Sportster was born in the 1950s, and put Harley back on the map, with this model earning the nickname, “Superbike”. In the 1960s, the Sprint model was first sold, which was a hybrid between a moped and a motorcycle. In 1973, all the manufacturing processes of Harley were moved to York, Pennsylvania. The popularity of the Sturgis rally convinced Harley to produce a Sturgis model bike around 1980.

The Modern Years

1993 marked the 90th Anniversary of this company, and riders came out in full-force to celebrate in Milwaukee. Just a year later, Harley produced its first racing superbike, the VR1000. The first international plant in Manaus, Brazil was opened in the late 1990s. In the early 2000s, the company started selling the FXSTD Softail Deuce. 2003 saw the 100th anniversary of the company, and around 250, 000 riders flooded the streets of Milwaukee for a Harley Davidson party. Five years later, the company would open the Harley Davidson Museum on July 12th, 2008, to showcase their history, designs, and more.

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