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While members of the Eagle Leather Riding Community ride all different brands of motorcycles (I personally ride a Boss Hoss), a lot—and I mean a lot—of our riders are Harley enthusiasts. Frankly, there is a lot to be enthusiastic about. Harley’s are great bikes with an amazing history, and next week mark’s Harley-Davidson’s 112th birthday. To celebrate its legacy, I thought we’d highlight the incredible history of the Harley-Davidson company. This one’s for all the Hog riders who love Eagle Leather!
On September 17th, 1907, William S. Harley and his childhood friend Walter Davidson incorporated the Harley-Davidson Company. They had started the motorcycle company four years earlier in 1903 out of a shed in Milwaukee, and the bikes were originally intended for racing. In 1908, Walter Davidson scored a perfect 1,000 at the Annual Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest. Afterward, word spread rapidly of Harley-Davidson's extremely tough motorcycle, and the first motorcycle sold for police duty is delivered to the Detroit Police Department.
By 1920, Harley-Davidson was the largest motorcycle in the world. But when the Great Depression impacted the nation, Harley’s sale numbers began to drop, despite its continuously improved design, dominating reputation, and steadfast quality. To help the sales numbers, Harley-Davidson began adding decorative paint schemes to the bikes for the first time.
1941 saw the beginning of WWII, and all production of civilian motorcycles is halted to provide motorcycles for the military. But when the war ended in 1945, and after winning a high honor from the Army and the Navy for its contribution to military excellence, Harley-Davidson began producing commercial motorcycles once again. The soldiers overseas who had used the motorcycles during the war are among many of Harley’s newest enthusiasts.
In 1965, the Electra-Glide was introduced, and it was the first line of Harley-Davidson motorcycles to have an electric starter. Harley-Davidson merged with the American Machine and Foundry Corporation (AMF) in 1969, and as motorcycle style continued its evolution, the first Low Rider was introduced in 1977. In 1981, 12 years after the AMF merger, 13 Harley-Davidson executives bought AMF out of the company, and “the Eagle Soars Alone,” became a rallying cry for Harley lovers everywhere. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1987.
Here’s fun fact about Harley-Davidson: Have you ever wondered why they call them hogs? A group of bike racers had a pig or hog as a mascot; when they would win a race they would put the hog on the bike and make a victory lap. Harley tried to patent the "HOG" name but was advised that the name was already used to represent motorcycles of all kinds. They later used the name H.O.G. for the Harley Owners Group. Later the Harley stock symbol was changed to HOG. Click here to read more Harley History and Fun Facts.
Harley Davidson celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2003, and it will be celebrating its 112th anniversary next week.
See you soon at Eagle Leather!
Source: The Harley Davidson Museum