JULY 29, 1914

Always fond of travel, Della Crewe was determined to see the world. Contemplating what mode of travel would be best suited to sightseeing, Crewe’s nephew joked that she should ride a motorcycle all over. Thorough investigation convinced her that the Harley-Davidson motorcycle was the sturdiest and most dependable machine for her around-the-world trip. Crewe, originally from Racine, WI, set out from her home in Waco, TX on July 24. Throughout the journey – accompanied in the sidecar by her companion dog, Trouble – she made a point to stop farm houses, visit with locals, and even joined a parade. On July 29, she arrived in Milwaukee, having travelled 2,147 miles on this first leg of the trip. “It was a great trip with miles of smiles,” she said, “and all of them Harley-Davidson smiles. Much of this happiness was showered upon me by the big Harley-Davidson family-dealers and riders-along the way. They were a princely lot of fellows and added many a link to the unbreakable chain of happy remembrances. Everywhere the glad hand was extended to me.”   

Continuing eastward, Crewe arrived in NYC in December, reportedly wearing four coats, four pairs of stockings, and heavy sheepskin shoes. Trouble braved the wintry blasts clad in a special, made-to-order sweater. “The Gray Fellow,” she wrote in an article for H-D Dealer, “kept a cheerful humming regardless of roads and weather. Thaws and slush, fresh gravel, ice and snow made little difference to my motor.” At the completion of her journey, this endurance rider had traveled 5,378 miles and covered 10 states. “Never for a moment have I regretted adopting the motorcycle and side-car as my mode of travel,and in my future articles on countries which I visit I confidently expect to be able to say that my motorcycle journeying are always enjoyable.”

Della Crewe rides motorcycle in Milwaukee

Della Crewe comes to Milwaukee.

JULY 21, 1947

On July 21, 1947, LIFE magazine ran an article describing a recent motorcycle rally in Hollister, California as a riot that terrorized the small town. The photograph that accompanied the story showed a drunken man sitting on a motorcycle surrounded by empty beer bottles. The photo was later revealed to have been staged and the motorcycle rally in Hollister was actually a peaceful event.  It was too late, though, and the image of drunken, out-of-control motorcycle gangs became seared into the public’s imagination. The image of a motorcycle rider as a lawless, violent rebel would be reinforced throughout the fifties and sixties, showing up in films like “The Wild One,” “Dragstrip Riot,” and “The Wild Angels.” Such imagery was more closely related to societal fears surrounding rebellious youths of the era than to average motorcycle riders.

Life magazine article clipping

LIFE magazine sparks the myth that motorcycle clubs were gangs of violent rebels with its article, ‘Cyclist’s Holiday’ and a staged photograph.

JULY 20, 1931

On July 20, 1931, the Harley-Davidson Board of Directors decided to begin development of a three-wheeled commercial vehicle.  A year later, that vehicle debuted as the Servi-Car. The Servi-Car was one of several products aimed at businesses, and joined  forecars, sidevans, and package trucks in Harley’s line of commercial vehicles. Servi-Cars were popular with police departments, car dealers, and numerous other businesses because of their versatility. Production of the Servi-Car ceased in 1973 after 41 years, making it one of the longest running production lines in Harley-Davidson history.

Harley-Davidson Servi-Car

Harley-Davidson decided to produce a three-wheeled commercial vehicle that would debut as the Servi-Car in 1932.

JULY 14, 1969

Easy Rider was released on July 14, 1969. Starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, it was a counterculture film that touched on the outlaw motorcycle culture. In the movie Hopper and Fonda ride two chopper-style motorcycles designed by Cliff Vaughns and Ben Hardy. The originals are no longer in existence, but replicas of the motorcycles can be seen at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Easy Rider was not the only film to feature Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Other films include Wild Ones, Captain America, The Avengers, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. 

Easy Rider motorcycles

The movie Easy Rider premieres.

JULY 12, 2008

As Harley-Davidson approaches its 100th anniversary, the H-D Museum will also celebrate a milestone. After decades of planning the best way to engage enthusiasts in their love for Harley history, all necessary components came together to  create the Harley-Davidson Museum now standing on Canal Street in Milwaukee. Over the years, smaller museum iterations were developed, including one at the York facility and a traveling museum in the back of semi-truck. Concepts were developed for other sites before the Menomonee Valley location was finally selected. Surrounded on three sides by water and set upon 20 acres of Milwaukee riverfront, the Museum is a collection of stories told by motorcycles and artifacts whose scope matches the history of the brand and the passion of its riders.  Many institutions celebrate their opening with a ribbon-cutting – but the H-D Museum torched a chain!

In 1915, showing remarkable foresight and discipline, the company founders began saving one motorcycle from each model year. At the same time, would-be historical artifacts were also preserved, including photography, signage and trophies won in races. But until the Museum came together, these items lived in storage, hidden from view. For decades, the Harley-Davidson Archives were a mysterious, seldom-seen collection of motorcycles and artifacts that weren’t accessible to the public. Over the company’s storied history, the Archives grew to hundreds of thousands of artifacts, and it became increasingly imperative to find a find a way to share these treasures with the motorcycling world. In the summer of 2008, 2 ½ years after breaking ground, this dream became a reality.

The Museum itself tells stories through a variety of media – from excerpts of personal stories to photos, authentic Harley-Davidson marketing pieces, apparel and of course, motorcycles. Additionally, the Archives has taken up residence on the second and third floors of the annex building, complete with space to store the artifacts and motorcycles not on display. In each area, temperature, humidity and light levels can be controlled with great precision ensuring longevity for all of the Company’s rare and valuable objects. Included on the campus are The Shop, Café Racer and Motor restaurant, as well as large rooms which are frequently used for meetings, local events, and celebrations. Open for the last anniversary celebration, the Museum was host to three weddings and several proposals. It proved central to the four-day party as both a hangout and a historical marker of what 105 years of H-D motorcycles really mean, and is gearing up to be a hot destination during this fall’s 100th anniversary. With history no longer hidden away, the Harley-Davidson Museum is where passion comes alive.

Harley-Davidson museum grand opening

Harley-Davidson Museum opened its doors to the public.

JULY 9, 1917

The Harley-Davidson Service School was born out of necessity during World War I.  With the company concentrating on military production and shipping motorcycles overseas, military quartermasters and mechanics needed extensive instruction into how the motorcycles were built and how to maintain them. This led to the creation of what was then known as the Harley-Davidson Quartermasters School and was a three week intensive course.

After the war, Harley-Davidson chose to maintain its highly successful program and re-named it the Service School. Classes were opened up to all Harley-Davidson employees and dealers, offering the same type of instruction once given to military personnel. Harley-Davidson also operated a Sales School and classes for those who operated and maintained Harley-Davidson’s commercial vehicles, such as police motorcycles and golf cars. World War II saw a brief resurrection of the Quartermaster School, but, as before, the Service School returned after the war was over.  In the 1990s, Harley-Davidson consolidated its various training programs into Harley-Davidson University.

First Harley-Davidson Service School class takes place in Milwaukee

The first Harley-Davidson Service School class takes place in Milwaukee. 

JULY 3, 1915

Otto Walker rode 200 miles in 2 hours, 32 minutes, and 58 seconds for an average speed of 78.4 miles per hour, breaking the previous record. On the same day, he broke his own record for the 300-mile race with the fastest time of 3 hours, 5 minutes, and 45 seconds with an average speed of at 76.27 miles per hour. July 3 was quite a day for Otto Walker. Not only did he win two races with record-breaking times, it was also his 25th birthday.  Harley-Davidson did well for itself, too. Its riders won 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th places in the 300-mile race. 

Otto Walker in Dodge City, KS

Otto Walker breaks records for both the 200- and 300-mile races at Dodge City, Kansas.

JULY 1, 1987

Trading on the New York Stock Exchange began on July 1, 1987. This came 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, 2 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. 

New York Stock Exchange

Harley-Davidson begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol HDI.