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US Motorcycle Manufacturer Information

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Mention the word motorcycle and chances are the first thing that comes to your mind is a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The Harley Davidson motorcycle was and always will be an American icon. Although other American motorcycle companies have flourished, none has had the staying power of Harley. It is a manufacturer of motorcycles based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that was started with small plans in 1901 by a 21 year old named William S. Harley. In 1903, Harley enlisted help from his friend Arthur Davidson and Davidson’s brother Walter to build a motorcycle strong enough to climb the hills of Milwaukee without using pedals. On September 8, 1904 a Harley-Davidson motorcycle made its first public appearance at State Fair Park in Milwaukee when it was entered in a race and driven by Edward Hildebrand.

The largest manufacturing job for Harley-Davidson came during World War I, while the company was still in its infancy. The United States wanted motorcycles involved in the war effort and asked Harley-Davidson to begin mass-producing bikes for the country. The company produced 20,000 motorcycles for the war effort. Before World War I Harley-Davidson manufactured a handful of motorcycles for the military to use in its border skirmishes with Poncho Villa but did not manufacture as many as they did for World War I.

Harley-Davidson was one of only two motorcycle manufacturing companies to survive the Great Depression in the United States and began supplying the government with motorcycles for use in World War II. During the span of the war Harley-Davidson manufactured over 90,000 motorcycles for the allied forces. Almost 30,000 of the 90,000 manufactured were sent to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease program. During the company’s history Harley -Davidson endured periods of tarnished reputations because of movies and relations to motorcycle gangs. Harley-Davidson motorcycles were used in Hollywood films that depicted outlaw biker gangs during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Harley-Davidson was also associated with the gang the Hells Angels and other motorcycle gangs because their bikes were those gangs’ bikes of choice.

The models being manufacture presently by Harley-Davidson are the Sportster, the Dyna, the Softail, the Touring and the Revolution. All of these models have been in production by Harley-Davidson for decades now. The Harley-Davidson company has four manufacturing plants across the country and they are located in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin; York, Pennsylvania; Tomahawk, Wisconsin and Kansas City, Missouri. The Harley-Davidson museum opened in 2008 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and includes exhibits, an archive, a restaurant and cafe and a museum store.

Tours are offered at all four of the company’s manufacturing plants as well as the museum in Milwaukee. The museum opened on July 12, 2008 and is located at Sixth and Canal streets in downtown Milwaukee. It is a three-building, 130,000 square feet operation that includes a variety of bikes on display as well as other memorabilia. The construction and operation of the museum is costing the Harley-Davidson company an estimated $75 million and should attract close to 350,000 visitors annually from around the world. Whether you consider the motorcycle a means of transportation, or a means of relaxation, depends on your overall opinion of two-wheeled travel. Harley Davidson, however, is guaranteed to remain at the forefront of the industry for decades to come based purely on owner loyalty and genuine love for the ultimate American motorcycle.