Harley-Davidson Inc. was founded in 1903 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Along with Indian, Harley-Davidson is one of the two sole survivor motorcycle companies who made it through the Great Depression in the US.
William S. Harley, an American mechanical engineer, and businessman started drawing plans for a small motorcycle engine in 1901. Over the next couple of years, Harley and childhood friend, Arthur Davidson worked on turning their engine design to reality.
Finding flaws in their initial engine design, they worked on fixing it with the help of many others. Their first prototype machine came to life on September 8, 1904, where it competed in a motorcycle race at the State Fair Park in Milwaukee. Edward Hildebrand rode the prototype and came fourth in the race.
Harley-Davidson placed its first series of advertisements in 1905 in the Automobile and Cycle Trade Journal selling engines to various industries.
They started producing complete motorcycles in April 1905, when they sold three bikes out of the five they had already built.
In 1906, the co-founders built their very first factory on Chestnut Street, where the modern-day Harley-Davidson current headquarters stands. That year, the company produced 50 motorcycles.
1907 was a prosperous year for the company. William S. Henry graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in mechanical engineering. Their Chestnut Street factory witnessed its first expansion with renovations made both interiorly and exteriorly. Their production was tripled, producing 150 motorcycles that year. They also made their first deal, producing motorcycles for the police department, which they still do until today.
Harley-Davidson bikes were used in World War I, where the US military purchased over 20,000 Harley-Davidson bikes.
In 1918, Harley-Davidson became an international corporation, producing bikes all over the world, starting in Australia and Japan.
In 1998, the first Harley-Davidson overseas factory was established in Brazil.
Ever since, Harley-Davidson has dominated the motorcycle market all over the world. These young men have sparked a revolution in the motorbikes industry whose light still shines until today.