New England Branch of Harley Davidson Motor Company

Harley-Davidson: The Early Years

A century-long journey from humble beginnings to American icon.

In the 115 years since William S. Harley and brothers Arthur and Walter Davidson built and sold the first Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1903, the roaring, heavyweight bike has endured as a symbol — of freedom, rebellion, and plain old American power. Here, in light of the company's recent announcement that it will move some production overseas in response to a burgeoning tariff war between the U.S. and its European allies, FOTO celebrates the early years of the iconic brand. Pictured: A Harley-Davidson dealership in New England, 1916.

ENDURANCE Bettmann/Bettmann Archive ENDURANCE Walter Davidson, the first president of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, poses with his bike after winning the 1908 Federation of American Motorcyclists' endurance run in the Catskills, New York. YOUNG FAN Hulton Deutsch/Corbis via Getty Images YOUNG FAN A Boy Scout rides a Harley in 1914. DAWN OF THE SIDECAR Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images DAWN OF THE SIDECAR Two men pose on a Harley-Davidson with a side car in front of a motorcycle shop in Minneapolis. The company first began to produce motorcycles with side cars in 1914. WAR EFFORT Bettmann/Bettmann Archive WAR EFFORT Part of Harley-Davidson's reputation as a quintessentially American brand arose from its association with the U.S. military. The company built more than 20,000 motorcycles for the American armed forces in World War I, and supplied 90,000 bikes to U.S. forces in WWII. STYLISH SPEEDSTER Heritage Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images STYLISH SPEEDSTER A rider (with a passenger in the side car) poses on a Flat Twin Harley-Davidson at Brooklands, a racing circuit in Surrey, England, 1920. READY FREDDY Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images READY FREDDY Racer Freddy Fretwell on a Harley, 1922. BY THE SEASHORE General Photographic Agency/Getty Images BY THE SEASHORE A woman on a California beach with a Harley-Davidson, along with her boyfriend seated in the sidecar, circa 1925. POLICING WITH HARLEY Underwood Archives/Getty Images POLICING WITH HARLEY A New Jersey State Police poses on his Harley-Davidson, 1930. The company began selling bikes to police departments just a few years after Harley-Davidson was founded, and that market has been a key component of its business ever since. THE FOREVER BIKE Heritage Images/Getty Images THE FOREVER BIKE A rider and passenger push their Harley-Davidson along the UK Motorcycling Club's famed "Land's End Trial" in Cornwall, England, 1933. The Land's End Trial, which each year runs through rugged terrain in the south of England, has been run since 1901 — making it older than Harley-Davidson itself.

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