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Thread: Harley History & Anniversary Years

  1. #1

    Harley History & Anniversary Years

    I have often wondered if Harley was founded in 1903, why was the 50th anniversary year (with fender medallion) in 1954?

    Which date should be challanged - 1903 or 1954?
    Buzz Kanter
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  2. #2
    OK Buzz,
    You have opened the can of worms now.
    The original Harley-Davidson Motor Company celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 1954. The oldest motorcycle in their collection was called a 1904 model. AMF came along and started advertising that the company had been producing motorcycles since 1903. AMF made 1978 the 75th Anniversary and the renamed the 1904 machine "The First Harley 1903". The New Harley-Davidson Inc has gone along with the AMF time line.
    The facts are;
    William S, Harley and Arthur Davidson had been working on building an engine to be put on a bicycle since, at least, 1901. The Harley family has a blueprint with a 1901 date on it.
    In 1903 they finished that engine and mounted it on a bicycle for testing. For the most part it was a failure. Underpowered. William S. Harley immediately started drawing a bigger engine and a frame to put it in. In April 1903 Walter Davidson quit his Kansas job with the "Katy" railroad and returned home for his brother William's wedding. He was promised a ride on the new motorcycle when he gets there. When he arrived he found the motorcycle hadn't progressed much past the blueprint stage. So William did most of the actual work building the engine. Which engine was this? The unsuccessfully bicycle engine or the bigger new design? We don't know. We do know that the first published appearance of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle came in the Fall of 1904. September 9, 1904 a Harley-Davidson motorcycle was reported by Milwaukee Daily news to have competed in local races.
    C. H. Lang was Harley-Davidson's first dealer and he also sat on their board of directors. Under sworn testimony he stated that he bought his first H-D in 1904, not in 1903 as stated in H-D history.
    Many thanks to Herb Wagner for the years of research he put in to write his wonderful book "At The Creation". Herb took all the old stories and rumors and did the research to find the facts. His research on the first ten years of the MoCo is wonderful. He separated facts from fiction through court or public record. No mistakes there.
    Buzz, you really need to read this wonderful book. Then you will know the truth.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buzz Kanter View Post
    I have often wondered if Harley was founded in 1903, why was the 50th anniversary year (with fender medallion) in 1954?

    Which date should be challanged - 1903 or 1954?
    I always figured that 1953 was the Golden Year---- 'gold' for 50th. Oh, okay, HD put the emblem on the front fender of the '54. Sorry, I don't own a library.
    When AMF changed the dates, I guess they had that right, as they saved HD from extinction, they could do whatever they wanted when they owned the MoCo. There must be some reason the MoCo has followed those datelines ever since. I'm not one to try to take em to court on it or anything, after all, it's their company.
    52 HydraGlide
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  4. #4
    Bigincher,
    How do you figure that AMF saved Harley-Davidson from extinction?
    In 1967/1968 Harley-Davidson was enjoying record profits. But the MoCo needed money for expansion. There was a bidding war among several suitors wanting to merge with Harley. Bangor Punta Inc. had the best offer.
    http://www.bangorpunta.com/Directory...Companies.html
    But the owners of The MoCo liked the people at AMF better. So in January of 1969 Harley-Davidson MERGED with AMF. It was not a buy out. AMF had the deep pockets for expansion and a plant in York, PA that could be used.
    It is a common misconception that Harley-Davidson was in trouble and was sold. This simply is not true.
    On the other hand by the late seventies the poor management of the MoCo by AMF had quality control at an all time low. Sales plummeted. Honda was trying to buy H-D. The MoCo was then on the verge of bankruptcy. Thirteen private investors, twelve were employees of Harley-Davidson, managed a leveraged buy out in July 1981. They nearly lost the company themselves, but concerned efforts on quality control and advertising brought the MoCo back into the black ink. In 1986 they were in such good shape that they were able to go public.
    Last edited by Chris Haynes; 12-16-2007 at 11:37 AM.

  5. #5
    Fascinating. If true, this is not the first time history was re-written to fit marketing needs rather than the facts.

    Where can I buy a copy of that book? Never heard about it before.

    Thanks.
    Ride your motorcycle like you stole it.

    Classic Harley magazine

  6. #6
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    Please refer to me by my name as it is written: "Bigincher". One word.
    52 HydraGlide
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  7. #7
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    Quote: "On the other hand by the late seventies the poor management of the MoCo by AMF had quality control at an all time low. Sales plummeted.........."

    Let's not mess up a good story with facts. I see waffling. Isn't that something that should be found on the inside of a mount for the skid plate on an 1832 FootBob? Oh wait, it needs to be Parkerized....

    Now which is it.... was AMF a part of the salvation of the MoCo or not? Never mind, please disregard that question, I am not interested in an "I know more than you do" discussion. I was merely excercising my right as a member here to post to the original question as posted by Buzz. Anything else would be considered "off topic", and a dissertation on the resurection of HD as a company during the late 70's and early 80's--- as interesting as that may or may not be--- was not the topic here, and might be better served with it's own devoted thread.
    52 HydraGlide
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    77 Stroker Shovel FLH
    94 Evo Secret Components

  8. #8
    I don't think we'll ever know, without a doubt, whether AMF saved HD. We can't go back and try it the other way. What we do know is that HD survived somehow, and since AMF owned it during some pretty bleak years (self inflicted and otherwise), I am comfortable with the concept that they helped the motor company stay alive. In spite of a lot of things I don't like about the way HD runs it's business today, I'm awfully glad it did survive.
    Dave Swanson

    1936 VLH
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveSwanson View Post
    I don't think we'll ever know, without a doubt, whether AMF saved HD. We can't go back and try it the other way. What we do know is that HD survived somehow, and since AMF owned it during some pretty bleak years (self inflicted and otherwise), I am comfortable with the concept that they helped the motor company stay alive. In spite of a lot of things I don't like about the way HD runs it's business today, I'm awfully glad it did survive.
    Well put. And if that hadn't happened, we might be out there today 'meeting the nicest people'.

    What I do know is that AMF inherited a complete manufacturing facility with run-down and neglected machinery. Under their ownership they re-invested in the plants and developed the best Harley engine ever made-- the Evo.

    But that's just my opinion.
    52 HydraGlide
    59 Pan/Knuck Chopper
    77 Stroker Shovel FLH
    94 Evo Secret Components

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by pogo seat View Post
    Fascinating. If true, this is not the first time history was re-written to fit marketing needs rather than the facts.

    Where can I buy a copy of that book? Never heard about it before.

    Thanks.
    Buy if from Herb at http://atthecreation.com/

    Or Amazon.com has it.

    It is $125.00 cheaper than plumbers book. Plus it is a much better read. ;-)
    Last edited by Chris Haynes; 12-16-2007 at 11:41 AM.

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