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Friday, February 26, 2016

William Harley and Arthur Davidson (1914)

Harley-Davidson Motor Company

Davidson and Harley toiled in a shed constructed in Davidson’s backyard, calling their outfit the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. In 1903, with the help of Davidson’s brothers, they produced their first motorcycle. In 1904 they built three motorcycles, one of which sold later that year at C.H. Lang of Chicago, the first Harley-Davidson dealer. Production soon outgrew Davidson’s backyard, so in 1906, Harley and the Davidson brothers built a factory in Milwaukee and produced 50 more motorcycles. The following year they formally incorporated, and by 1909 they had increased their annual production to around 1,000 motorcycles.
Arthur Davidson’s next move was to convince government officials that motorcycles should replace bicycles in the U.S. Postal Service. By 1914 the Postal Service had more than 4,800 Harley-Davidson motorcycles in its transportation fleet. When World War I began, Harley-Davidson almost entirely suspended its production of motorcycles built for civilians in favor of military production, providing thousands upon thousands of machines for the war effort. By the time the war was over, Harley-Davidson had become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, and its motorcycles could be bought from more than 2,000 dealers in 67 countries worldwide.
Over time, Arthur Davidson gradually removed himself from business operations and spent more time on his philanthropic endeavors. He established a trust fund and donated land for a Boy Scout camp and supported a Wisconsin home for the blind, among other efforts.

Final Years

On December 30, 1950, Davidson and his wife, and two of their friends, were killed in a car accident in Waukesha, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee. He left behind a motorcycle empire and a publicly traded company worth over $10 billion. In honor of his legacy, in 1998 he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

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