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Harley-Davidson – this month in history

Oxford (08 July 2013) - Historically, July is much like any month of the calendar year for Harley-Davidson – there is always news and something exciting happening within the Motor Company; a new model perhaps, maybe new promotion deals on accessories, or even a new dealership opening.

One such historical example would be 1 July, 1987 when Harley-Davidson first began trading on the New York Stock Exchange – a year after Harley-Davidson’s first public offering on the American Stock Exchange in July, 1986. To celebrate the listing, a group of executives from Harley-Davidson and the New York Stock Exchange rode from the Harley® dealership in Queens to the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. It was a dramatic entrance that included 25 motorcycles, 10 limousines, two Harley-Davidson® tractor trailers, and a 40-foot Holiday Rambler motor home. The event also marked the first time a motorcycle appeared on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange!

Another special event specific to the month of July to have occurred in the 110 years of Harley-Davidson – and one that will touch the lives of old and young Harley® owners and fans for years to come – was the official opening of the Harley-Davidson® Museum in Harley’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The museum officially opened its doors to the public on Saturday 12 July 2008 on a 20-acre site in the old Menomonee Valley, a historical industrial area. The 130,000-square-foot three building complex is fronted by the Menomonee River bank and hosts over 450 Harley-Davidson® motorcycles contained in themed and year-specific areas. These areas are all bordered with thousands of artefacts that are sourced and donated to museum.

As a three times visitor to the museum, this author can tell you the museum is a must-see for everyone and not just aficionados of Harley-Davidson. If the impressive building structure doesn’t grab you, nothing will! There’s not one area inside that holds a visitor’s interest; they all cause you to stop and admire and ingest the history of Harley. Not just the bike’s, either. When you see and read about the endeavours of the men and women – the first official factory racing team, long distance riding record setters etc. – who have been touched by Milwaukee’s finest, you become aware of how motorcycling was shaped by Harley-Davidson.

As you walk through the museum doors, you are met with an area dedicated to the fledgling days of Harley-Davidson. Stood within an air-conditioned glass case is Serial Number One, the oldest known Harley-Davidson® motorcycle. This exhibit is bordered by a square outline set into the floor and depicts the size of the ‘shed’ that was the birthplace of the first production Harley-Davidson motorcycle. From this point your interest is held tighter than a clenched robotic fist.

If I had to say what is my favourite display within the museum then it is probably the tank wall, a section of wall that is literally covered in petrol tanks depicting the different colour schemes and emblems used by Harley-Davidson over the years. But then it could also be the ‘engine room’ that comprehensively records the history of Harley® engines. Like most of the displays, this area is fully interactive. The archive section is also a must because it further impacts the point on how massive the name and bikes of Harley-Davidson really is.

Eventually you will leave the museum and the moment you leave you will get hit with the feeling you haven’t seen it all – and as sure as eggs are eggs, you haven’t. This feeling stays with you even when entering the Museum’s gift shop and Motor® Bar & Restaurant.

The museum site was formerly used by the Milwaukee Department of Public Works, Lakeshore Sand Company, and Morton Salt. On June 1, 2006, Harley-Davidson began building of the museum with a ceremony that saw legendary Harley-Davidson dirt track rider, Scott Parker, shifting the first piece of ground with a burnout on a Harley-Davidson® XL883R Sportster®, making a change to the usual Golden Shovel’s first cut. The site includes parking spaces for 1,000 motorcycles marked out in the same manner as bike parking in Sturgis. The museum opens everyday 10am-6pm and until 8pm on Thursday. Because it is a major attraction, it is best to book entrance tickets in advance. Please click here for more information.

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