September 4, 2008

Harley History – When Did Harley-Davidson REALLY Start?

"Serial #1" In The Harley-Davidson Museum


According to official Harley history and the official Harley records Bill Harley and Davidson brothers created their first running motorcycle in 1903, a couple of years after the Indian Motocycle Company built a motorcycle in 1901. Yet rumors fly about the real Harley history and when the first Harley motorcycle was actually built.

If you are one to challenge the official harley history books you migth want to know why did the 1954 Harley motorcycles carry a 50th anniversary badge, when one would asume the 1953 model Harley would be the ones.

We reviewed a book called In The Creation in American Iron Harley magazine about challenges to the various “official dates” for when Harley really got going. All I can say is it is very much worth reading if you want the whole story on the birth of Harley-Davidson.

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Comments on Harley History – When Did Harley-Davidson REALLY Start?

September 5, 2008

admin @ 11:05 am

Love those white tires!

September 9, 2008

flathead @ 9:04 pm

Who cares if it was 1903, 1904 or 1905? Not many of us will even see, ride or own one anyway. But it sure is one cool looking bike in the photo.

September 11, 2008

Chris Haynes @ 2:08 pm

Herbert Wagner has tackled this question and the results are in his wonderful book “At The Creation”
He took all of the H-D history stories and rumors and went to work either documenting or disproving them.
The often quoted and published story of Walter Davidson leaving his job with the railroad in Kansas and returning to Milwaukee for a his brother William’s wedding in 1903. While there he did the machine work and actual building of the “First” bike.
So What did Herb do? He contacted the Katy Railroad who Walter worked for. Found his employment record and discovered he had left the railroad in 1904, not 1903. next Herb went to the Milwaukee County Vital statistics and pulled William’s wedding certificate. He was married in 1904, not 1903.
Herb then searches out public records and newspapers. He found that on September 9, 1904 a Harley-Davidson motorcycle participated in a race in Milwaukee. It did not win, place or show. This is the earliest known public appearance of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
But the absolute proof is from sworn court testimony. In it the Founding Fathers, under oath, tell that they built their first complete motorcycle in 1904. In 1903 they had placed an engine of their design on a bicycle and it was a failure.
There is sooo much more history in this book. Herb did a great job of tracking down and documenting the history of the beginnings of Harley-Davidson. Go to and buy this book. It is a must read.

October 30, 2008

c.o. @ 10:31 pm

Chris is pointing in the right direction. Herb’s book is absolutely great! Oh and by the way, just as a side note. Indian didn’t actually sell a motorcycle until 1902……….