History, with all The Dust Blown Off

Traveling into the past is a thrill when you ride with Harley-Davidson.

Harley-Davidson Archives

Harley-Davidson has been preserving its history for over 100 years. Before moving to the Museum in 2008, the Archives was housed at the company’s Juneau Avenue headquarters in Milwaukee behind closed doors. Now on display to the public in museum exhibits, the collection is also used for research by various departments of the Motor Company, providing background or inspiration for many tasks ranging from marketing to new product development.

Only a small portion of the Archives collection is on view in the museum at a given time. Several hundred vehicles are stored on the third floor of the Archives building, and the second floor houses thousands of objects such as collectibles and toys, parts and accessories, clothing and riding gear, art, documents, and photographs.

From The Archives

  • Vehicle profile: 1916 Model T “Stripped Stock” Factory Racer

    Almost as soon as there were motorcycles, there was racing. The first races were informal events, but manufacturers, quickly realizing that competitions were a great way to gain publicity, founded officially sponsored teams. Races held on wooden board tracks attracted thousands of spectators who came to watch the thrilling competitions.

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    1916 Model T “Stripped Stock” Factory Racer
    1916 Model T “Stripped Stock” Factory Racer
  • Vehicle profile: 1947 Model FL

    This Special Sport Solo is powered by a 74 cubic inch OHV Knucklehead motor and 4-speed handshift transmission. It has a rubber-mounted instrument panel and self-aligning head bearings. The gas tank holds 4 gallons, and the oil tank holds one. A total of 6,893 model FL were built in 1947, the final year of the Knucklehead.

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    1947 Model FL
    1947 Model FL
  • Vehicle profile: 1986 Softail Custom – The Harley Fox

    Customization is the creative, visual, expression of a rider’s personality. While many prefer to leave their machines as they received it from the dealer, others choose to make their ride distinctive by giving it a personal touch. This practice may consist of a few minor additions or subtractions all the way to full-blown tailoring. One such customized bike is the 1986 FXSTC Softail Custom known as the “Harley Fox.”

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    1986 Softail Custom – The Harley Fox
    1986 Softail Custom – The Harley Fox
  • Vehicle profile: 1960 XLH Sportster®
    “Mrs. Sup Jr.”

    Women have been riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles since the earliest days of the sport. Seeking independence and driven by the desire to do something new and exciting, female riders took to the roads and haven‘t looked back. As we celebrate 110 years of Harley-Davidson, we also honor this legacy and the miles to come. Join us as we observe Women‘s Riding Month, culminating in a special Ladies Bike Night at the Museum on May 30th.

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    1960 XLH Sportster®
    1960 XLH Sportster®
  • Did you know? Pioneering Women

    By 1921, when Harley-Davidson began marketing to “girls” as more than just passengers, the first solo women riders were long gone – opening up new roads to adventure on their own

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    Headlight Advertising, 1930
    Della Crewe
  • Artifact Spotlight: Racing Program, 1914

    Board-track racing was arguably one of the most popular spectator sports in America during the teens and early ’20s. Thousands came to view races of both cars and motorcycles at venues across the country, including Milwaukee. Programs like this one helped viewers follow their favorite racers, and also advertised motorcycles parts and accessories, as well as local dealerships and other businesses. Special attractions were also listed – at this event, spectators would see “The Smallest and Youngest Motorcyclist in the World!” as Milwaukee’s own Walter Baldwin, only five years old, would ride a “powerful, space destroying Motorcycle, unassisted.” Quite a spectacle!

    Learn more about board track racing in the Clubs & Competition gallery at the Harley-Davidson Museum. This artifact is currently on display.

    H.O.G. Rocker Patches
    A 1914 program for the Milwaukee Motordrome, which stood on the present-day site of Hubbard Park in Shorewood.
  • Artifact Spotlight: H.O.G. Rocker Patches

    At the entrance to the museum exhibits, there is a case of H.O.G. patches representing individual chapters of the Harley Owners Group from around the world. H.O.G. members proudly announce their regional affiliation with these patches called “chapter rockers.” Local chapters are sponsored by Harley-Davidson dealers, and there are currently chapters in over 70 countries, totaling more than 1400 different groups. H.O.G. chapters are invited to bring a large chapter rocker for display in this exhibit case during their visit to the museum.

    H.O.G. Rocker Patches
    H.O.G. Rocker Patches on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum.

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Adults (18-64 years): $18
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Children (under 5): Free with Adult
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Hours and location

May-September - Daily: 9am-6pm
(Thursday, 9am-8pm)
October-April - Daily: 10am-6pm
(Thursday, 10am-8pm)

Harley-Davidson Museum
400 W Canal Street
Milwaukee, WI 53201
1-877-HD-MUSEUM or 414-287-2789

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