How Did Harley-Davidson Get Its Name

Published

White Star Rides is your trusted Harley-Davidson companion, offering expert guidance and information to enhance your riding experience.

How Did Harley-Davidson Get Its Name

Are you a Harley-Davidson biker looking to learn more about the story behind the brand and its iconic name? If yes, then you are definitely in the right place.

Harley-Davidson got its name from the last names of the founders who started the iconic brand over a century ago. The “Harley” part of the name comes from the name of William Harley, while the “Davidson” part comes from the name of Walter, William, and Arthur Davidson. The first Harley-Davidson bike was manufactured in 1903 in a wooden shed in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the first Harley-Davidson bike was sold in Chicago by C.H. Lange, a popular merchant at the time. In the last 120 years, the brand has established its place as the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

In this article, you will get to know more about the Harley-Davidson brand, how did Harley-Davidson get its name, and interesting facts about the history of the Harley-Davidson brand among others. Continue reading to get all the answers that you are looking for.

History of Harley-Davidson

In 1903, the Wright brothers flew a plane for the first time and Henry Ford established the Ford Motor Company. 1903 also saw another significant event as the Harley-Davidson Motor Company was founded by William Harley and Walter, William, and Arthur Davidson. They gave the bike a powerful engine that could win races; however, they intended to make it a means of transportation.

The same year, the first-ever Harley-Davidson bike got sold in Chicago by C.H. Lange. Chicago is a city well known for its love of moto racing and auto-touring. William Davidson joined the firm, which quickly outgrew its manufacturing plant and needed to shift to larger premises in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1906.

From the beginning, the Harley-Davidson bikes started setting records. For instance, in 1908, the company set a record of more than 188 miles per gallon. In the motorcycle realm in 1910, the company achieved seven first-place finishes. By 1912, Harley-Davidson got over 200 distributors in the United States.

During the 60s, the Harley-Davidson bikes became affectionately known as “the hog”. The bike scored 7 consecutive wins at the Daytona 500. In the following decade, the bike won four successive AMA Grand National Championship titles, while also shattering the record for land speed.

The Harley-Davidson Motor Company developed to be the most recognized motorcycle in the United States, but it wasn’t actually the first. In 1867, Howard Roper created a coal-powered steam engine motorbike whereas Gottlieb Daimler created a gas-powered bike in 1885, attaching the components to a wooden bicycle. It marked the era when the twin development of the modern bicycle and the useful gas-powered engine coincided.

See also  When Is It Too Cold To Ride A Motorcycle: Key Tips To Keep In Mind When Driving Your Harley In Winters

At the turn of the 19th century, the investors who experimented with the bicycle and the engine elected to take three routes. For instance, Daimler made automobiles, the Wright brothers decided to fly airplanes, and men like Harley and the Davidsons developed motorcycles. Their primary business competitors included new start-ups like Schikel, Merkel, Thor, Pierce, Excelsior, and Indian.

During World War I, Harley-Davidson manufactured over 20,000 motorcycles for the United States government. During World War II, almost all the motorcycles manufactured by Harley-Davidson were used in the war. As countries like England were forced to quit motorcycle production in favor of tanks and airplane manufacturers, Harley-Davidson’s bikes were shipped abroad to US allies.

After World War II, Harley-Davidson’s market share continued to grow. Indian motorcycle, Harley’s major US competitor, halted motorcycle manufacturing in the 50s. Moreover, veteran motorcycle owners, new bikers, and even movies like Easy Rider ended up boosting Harley-Davidson’s profile among the American crowd. Glamorous stars photographed with Harley-Davidson bikes like Elvis Presley, Jayne Mansfield, and Peter Fonda further helped enrich the company’s image.

The Harley-Davidson Motor Company has grown and evolved from its origin to a global brand. Irrespective of how much the logo, machinery, and bikes have changed over the years, bikers can still count on Harley-Davidson to produce powerful, high-quality motorcycles.

How did Harley-Davidson get its name

When it comes to Harley-Davidson bikes, many bikers are familiar with the classic Harley-Davidson logo, the hype around the riding experience, and the longevity of the bikes. However, do you know how did Harley-Davidson get its name?

Established in a wooden shed back in 1903, Harley-Davidson has become one of the world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturers. The bike is renowned for its hulking but extremely customizable bikes that boast powerful engines. There is an interesting story involved with how did Harley-Davidson get its name. 

Harley-Davidson Store

Most people would think that Harley-Davidson got its name after being founded by someone with the name Harley and the other with the name Davidson. However, this is only partially correct. Harley-Davidson was actually started by William Harley and the three Davidson brothers, namely Walter, William, and Arthur. Despite there being three Davidson brothers, William Harley’s name was prioritized. This is the case because it was William Harley’s idea to make a cycle that ran on a motor. The Davidson brothers agreed, and the brand became known as Harley-Davidson.

See also  5 Easy Steps to Installing Hard Saddlebags on a Softail Motorcycle

Interesting facts to know about the history of Harley-Davidson

Few brands are as idolized as Harley-Davidson in the motorcycle industry. The iconic motorcycle brand has over a hundred years of history, while having seen a number of trends come and go. Today, it has become an extremely dominant big-bike manufacturer, but how well do you know the storied history of the brand? Here are some of the most interesting facts about the history of Harley-Davidson that you might not know.

The Harley-Davidson V-twin engine was created in 1909

A few years back, Harley-Davidson introduced the Milwaukee Eight, the 9th Big Twin engine in the brand’s history as well as the first new engine in 15 years. However, the first V-twin engine was actually mounted to a frame in 1990. These engines have been inextricably linked with Harley-Davidson bikes ever since, even if the first version was a poor performer and only lasted one year in production.

However, Harley-Davidson did not actually invent the V-Twin, nor was it the first brand to use it on a motorcycle. This distinction goes to its rival – Indian Motorcycle, which is owned by Polaris Industries today. Indian introduced the V-twin engine in 1904 and started putting it on racing motorcycles two years later. Indian even issued the muscular new big V-twin in 2013 – the Thunder Stroke 111.

Harley-Davidson became the world’s biggest motorcycle maker within 20 years

Even though it was founded 5 years later after Indian Motorcycle, which used its racing bikes for generating a huge following. By 1920, Harley-Davidson became the world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer, with more than 2,000 dealers in 67 countries.

It was Harley-Davidson’s Wrecking Crew racing team, a name that it earned through its huge dominance of the sport in the mid-1910s. It was one that Indian’s top race crew later adopted, and it helped propel Harley-Davidson to the top. In the world of big bikes having engines 601cc or more, Harley-Davidson is the king until now. In the United States, the brand still commands a 50% share of the market.

The Wild One was the first movie to feature a Harley-Davidson bike

The film “Easy Rider” released in 1969 is seen as the quintessential Harley-Davidson motorcycle movie and may be the first film where the bike took center stage. However, it was actually the 1953 classic “The Wild One” featuring Marlon Brando that gave the Harley-Davidson brand its first featured big-screen performance.

See also  Where Are Harley-Davidsons Made: Check Where Was Your Harley-Davidson Manufactured

Brando was not riding a Harley, but a Triumph Thunderbird 6T. However, his nemesis, Chino, of the rival motorcycle gang rode around a 1950 Harley-Davidson Hydra Glide.

There is a reason Harley-Davidson bikes are called “hogs”

The name “hog” has become synonymous with Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Although you may expect it to have something to do with the power, imposing, and hulking size of the bike, in reality, this nickname has a different story. This nickname was adopted as the Harley-Davidson racing team member Ray Weishaar owned a piglet, and it became the team’s mascot. After winning the competitions, team members used to take victor laps with their porcine mascot.

Harley-Davidson once made bikes in Japan

Despite its image as an iconic American motorcycle manufacturing brand, Harley-Davidson has expanded its business, starting facilities in India, Brazil, and Thailand. 

However, these are not the brand’s first forays into the foreign market. The company licensed the Japanese company Sankyo to manufacture copies of its bikes for the Japanese market during the depression, with production starting in 1935.

Interestingly, it is believed that it was the Japanese motorcycles that kept the Harley-Davidson Motor Company afloat. After World War II, the production was not the same and the business was sold to Showa in 1950. Although the division stopped manufacturing the motorcycles in 1959, Showa has continued supplying parts for Harley-Davidson until now.

Conclusion

Thank you for reading. Hopefully, now you know a lot more about the Harley-Davidson brand, how did Harley-Davidson get its name, and interesting facts about the history of the Harley-Davidson brand among others. Harley-Davidson got its name from the last names of the founders who started the iconic brand over a century ago.

The “Harley” part of the name comes from the name of William Harley, while the “Davidson” part comes from the name of Walter, William, and Arthur Davidson. The first Harley-Davidson bike was manufactured in 1903 in a wooden shed in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the first Harley-Davidson bike was sold in Chicago by C.H. Lange, a popular merchant at the time. In the last 120 years, the brand has established its place as the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

Photo of author
Author
White Star Rides is your go-to Harley-Davidson expert. We live and breathe these bikes. Our team has years of experience in fixing, riding, and loving Harleys. We know every part of these bikes and love sharing what we know with you. Whether it's about fixing a problem or just enjoying the ride, we're here to help. Trust us to make your Harley journey better and easier.