The Davidson Brothers and William S. Harley - Motorcycle pioneers and manufacturers;
Sometimes a name is more famous than the person(s) for which it is attached. In this case, the name "Harley" combined with "Davidson" is one of the most iconic brands in America — if not the world. It's right up there with "Ford" and Madison's own "Oscar Mayer." But neither Ford or Oscar Mayer ever achieved the "Tattoo Loyalty" that's associated with Harley-Davidson.
Four men, all Milwaukee born, founded the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
During the summer months of his youth, Authur Davidson stayed at his grandmother's farm in Cambridge, Wisconsin where he met and became a close friend of fellow Wisconsinite, Ole Evinrude, the inventor of the first practical outboard motor. They jointly-owned a pattern making (casting patterns) business together in 1902. It is told that Evinrude helped Harley-Davidson perfect its first carburetor, as well as allowing the boys to tinker in his machine shop.
William S. Harley was born William Sylvester Harley on December 29, 1880 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Harley received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1907. He co-founded Harley-Davidson with Arthur Davidson in 1903, serving as chief engineer and treasurer until his death in 1943. While in college he worked at a Madison architect's office and as a waiter for the Kappa Sigma fraternity house.
Arthur Davidson Sr. was born on February 11, 1881 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. One of Davidson's favorite pastimes was fishing in the Wisconsin wilderness, which inspired him to create a motorcycle that would, "take the hard work out of pedaling a bicycle". Davidson borrowed $500 in venture capital needed for Harley-Davidson from an uncle who owned a bee farm in Madison, Wisconsin. From then on, the uncle was known as the "Honey Uncle" for helping the business get off the ground. The bee farm on Lake Mendota was later sold to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and is now known as Picnic Point in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
Walter Davidson Sr., was born on 30 September 30, 1876 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was the company's first president, a post he held until his death in 1942.
William A. Davidson, was born in October 14, 1870 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin , Davidson was the eldest of the three Davidson brothers. William Davidson took a big risk by quitting his well paying job with the Milwaukee Road railroad and purchasing the machining tools and presses that helped the young company meet the expanding demand for motorcycles.
Above: Harley-Davidson Motor Company patent that was filed on 11/01/1919 and issued on 10/07/1924.
Above: Modern Harley Davidson motorcycle.
For more information on William S. Harley, visit Wikipedia.
For more information on Arthur Davidson Sr, visit Wikipedia.
For more information on William A. Davidson, visit Motorcycle Hall of Fame article.
For more information on Walter Davidson, visit Motorcycle Hall of Fame article
If it's a biker movie, chances are there's a Harley in it. (Click on image below to browse.)
Above: Vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Above: Elvis on a Harley (1956).
Above: Hells Angels motocycle club member on a Harley. Photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution: SliceofNYC.
Above: "Easy Rider Choppers" in Harley Davidson museum. Photo licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Above: "The Weight" by The Band from "Easy Rider" (1969) with the iconic Captain America Chopper (1952 Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide w/ H-D panhead engine).
Above: Ending scene of "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man" (1991).