About The Hell’s Angels
Known for their Harley-Davidsons, skull logo and for starting trouble, the Hell’s Angels came roaring into American history many years ago. The group has since grown to have more than 125 different charters in Europe and many others covering the globe, from Canada to Australia.
The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club was born in 1948 on St. Patrick’s Day. It first emerged in the San Bernardino area of California and was one of many motorcycle clubs that popped up around that time. It is one of the few, however, that is still around. The founding charter, also known as “Berdoo,” is still around, although many of its original members took off for Oakland.
The 1950s were a boon for the Hell’s Angels, with many charters developing randomly across California. Ground rules were finally laid down as criteria for admission. By the 1960s, Hell’s Angels were roaring through much of the East Coast and they later moved to the Midwest. The first international charter was born in 1961 in New Zealand. The first European charter hit the roads of London in 1969. The club developed its first South American charter in 1984 and, in 1994, one was started in South Africa.
“Hell’s Angels” was a term used by the military to denote fighting groups that were rough, tough and not the type folks would want to encounter. While widely used in both World War I and World War II, the Hells Angels say that is not the origin of the group’s name. Nor was the group specifically named after the Howard Hughes movie “Hell’s Angels,” which features daring feats of aviation. Rather, a man named Arvid Olsen, since deceased, gave the idea of the name to the club’s founders. Olsen himself was not a Hell’s Angel of the motorcycle type, but he did belong to the Flying Tigers military squadron.
The Hell’s Angels logo is immediately recognized by many. Known as the winged death head, the logo depicts a profile of a skull sporting a large, winged red-and-yellow helmet. The group is very protective of their logo, making it clear its use is only condoned by members who have earned the right to wear it. In fact, in 2006, The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Corporation sued Walt Disney, Buena Vista Motion Pictures and a production company saying the club’s logo was used without permission in the script of the movie “Wild Hogs.”
The sight of the Hell’s Angels roaring through town would often instill fear in the town’s residents—and often with good reason. The group is classified as one of the “big four” outlaw motorcycle gangs by both the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada and the FBI. One of the group’s most notorious incidents, which could be seen as a harbringer of Angels’ legacy, occured at the infamous 1969 concert at Altamont Speedway in California. The Hell’s Angels were on hand to act as security and ended up, instead, stabbing a man to death. The case concerning the death of the man, Meredith Hunter, was eventually closed with no convictions, as it was shown that Hunter had pulled out a handgun before he was stabbed.