The Norman Transcript

October 15, 2013

110 years of Harley-Davidson

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — HOG, or Harley Owners Group, was organized 30 years ago to build friendships between Harley owners seeking adventure.

Harley-Davidson’s humble history began at the start of the 20th century.

William S. Harley, born in 1880, and Arthur Davidson, born in 1881, lived next door to each other in Milwaukee, Wis. While the two friends were working in a local manufacturing plant, they decided to build an internal combustion engine to be used on bicycles.

They became friends with a German co-worker who was familiar with the De Dion engine already being used in Europe. With his help, they designed a small, air-cooled engine.

Arthur’s brother, Walter Davidson, who was working as a machinist, was recruited for their bicycle engine project. In 1903, Davidson brothers Arthur and Walter, along with Harley, built a single-cylinder motorcycle in a wooden shed.

The Davidson brother’s aunt, Janet, painted the pin-stripes on the first few Harleys. Harley-Davidson built and sold three single-cylinder motorcycles in 1903. They built and sold three more motorcycles in 1904.

In 1905, the first Harley-Davidson to be produced in significant numbers was the Silent Gray Fellow, named for its quite operation and gray color. These were 450cc-single cylinder bikes using a bicycle-style frame. To slow down and stop the rider had to peddle backward.

Harley-Davidson history is full of ups and downs. Harley was bought by American Machine and Foundry in 1969. In 1981, senior management bought the company back from AMF.

Harley slowly came back in the ’80s, and now Harley-Davidson is one of the most recognized names in the world. In 1983, Harley Owners Group was formed with 30,000 members in the first year. Now, there are about a million HOG members worldwide.

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