History of Harley-Davidson
Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Motor Company manufactures heavyweight motorcycles. For more than a century, Harley-Davidson motorcycles have served numerous purposes, from mail delivery and police patrols to war work and highway cruising. Commonly known as a “Harley” or a “Hog,” the motorcycle also is identified with outlaw biker gangs and the so-called road movies such as “Easy Rider.”
William Harley and brothers Arthur and Walter Davidson teamed up to convert a bicycle into a motor bike powered by a 7.07-cubic-inch engine. They later improved the project with a larger engine that could power the bike on hills. The Harley-Davidson company was founded in 1903.
Involvement in Law Enforcement
Harley-Davidson sold its first motorcycle for police work in 1908, beginning a century-long service of providing vehicles for government work, particularly in law enforcement.
Early Military Uses
The Harley-Davidson found around-the-clock uses for mail delivery, messenger services, and by 1917, a third of all Harleys were sold to the U.S. military for service in World War I.
The Harley-Davidson is a favorite among enthusiasts for customizing bikes into “choppers,” identified with an extended front fork, with the 1969 movie “Easy Rider” sparking a cottage industry in custom Harleys.
In 1948, the company added the 61 and 74 overhead valve engines that featured aluminum heads and chrome-plated rocker covers shaped like cake pans, thus giving it the moniker “Panhead.”
In 1925, Harley-Davidson introduced the teardrop-shaped gas tank, which became the standard design on all future models.
Actor Steve McQueen, a car and motorcycle enthusiast, whose iconic motorcycle chase in the movie “The Great Escape” sparked a new generation of motorcycle lovers, owned a 1929 Harley.