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Exclusively for you, our Archivists have assembled a wealth of stories, photos, and artifacts that provide a true insider’s view of the Harley-Davidson legacy. Enjoy your visit, and thanks for being a valued Member of the Harley-Davidson Museum.
The Handiest Rig on the Farm
In the days before motorized transportation, all work on a farm was done by hand, using equipment pulled by horses. But what if there was a better way? Something that didn’t need as much care as a horse, or something more efficient than traveling on foot. Something… with an engine!
Enter Harley-Davidson. Starting a motorcycle was much faster than hooking up a cart with horses, a time saver that was critical in an era when much of America was rural. The motorcycle could help with many chores – carrying feed or equipment, making deliveries and traveling to town. A machine does not require as much maintenance as a horse, and the switch could save its owner significant money.
Harley-Davidson saw an opportunity in this sales market and began addressing farmers directly in Motor Company advertising. A newspaper ad in 1911 called out, “Mr. Farmer – Thousands of progressive farmers are buying Harley-Davidson Motorcycles this year. Buying them because they travel 10 miles for a cent, less than the wear and tear on their team and rig if they drive.”
The economy of operation and the time saved were important factors in persuading farmers in remote areas. In 1912, the Motor Company published a pamphlet called “The Harley-Davidson on the Farm.” It cites many instances in which an H-D machine is helpful – “In case of accident to man or machinery quick trips to town are possible. Farms that are an hour away by team, are within 10 or 15 minutes with a Harley-Davidson.”
Accessories were available to make the motorcycle even more practical. A tandem seat attachment meant that the rider could bring a passenger, and “will be found indispensible for the business purposes to which it can be put.” A luggage carrier could hold up to 200 pounds of eggs, oats, chickens, or even pigs! The Price List of Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Parts claimed that “It is not cumbersome or heavy, and is never in the way. It may be attached or detached in a few moments.” Economy, comfort and flexibility earned the motorcycle the title of “the handiest rig on the farm.”
Without a Harley-Davidson in his stable, a farmer was bound to be left in the dust. “Just as the farmer has replaced the flail with the threshing machine, the cradle with the binder and the hand plow with the gang plow, so too will he replace the inadequate, old-fashioned way in use by his forefathers for generations, namely going to town by team, with the more modern, more rapid, more economical and more thoroughly delightful mode of going by motorcycle. Motorcycling is one pleasure that the progressive farmer should indulge in, because it is not only a pleasure, but a health-giving economical necessity.”
|Adults (18-64 years):||$18|
|Children (5-17 years):||$10|
|Children (under 5):||Free with Adult|
|Seniors (65+):||$12 (with ID)|
|Military & Students:||$12 (with ID)|
|H-D Museum Members:||Free|
Hours and location
Open everyday 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. and until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays
400 W Canal Street
Milwaukee, WI 53201
1-877-HD-MUSEUM or 414-287-2789