did harley davidson start in wisconsin

Did Harley Davidson Start in Wisconsin? A Look at the Company’s Founding

From the roaring sound of its engines to the timeless style it exudes, Harley Davidson has been a beloved American motorcycle manufacturer for over 100 years. Though widely known around the world, many don’t know about its origins and roots in Wisconsin. Did Harley Davidson start in Wisconsin? The answer is simple: Yes. In this article we’ll dive deeper into Harley Davidson’s inception as well as explore exactly how significant Wisconsin was during those formative times.

The Founders of Harley Davidson

Four extraordinary Milwaukee natives, William S. Harley, Arthur Davidson Sr., Walter Davidson Sr., and William A. Davidson, joined forces in 1903 to launch the iconic Harley-Davidson Motor Company in Wisconsin’s biggest city: Milwaukee. Each of these incredible men had an integral part to play during the company’s formative years.

William S. Harley

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1880, William S. Harley was a mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and had begun his career even before he earned his degree by working at an architect’s office as well as a waiter for Kappa Sigma fraternity house. As co-founder and chief engineer of Harley Davidson alongside Arthur Davidson, Harold Davidson Sr., Walter Davidon Jr., Bill Knoechelmanand George M Steffey; Harly held immense responsibility towards their success that went beyond designing many early models to also serve as treasurer until 1943 when he passed away.

Arthur Davidson Sr.

Arthur Davidson Sr., born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1881, was an avid fisherman who found himself daydreaming of a motorbike that could make biking easier. With $500 venture capital from his Uncle’s bee farm in Madison, Wisconsin – henceforth named the “Honey Uncle” for helping to launch Harley-Davidson – Arthur became a key figure during the budding stages of Harley Davidson as he contributed significantly to perfecting motorcycles early on.

Walter Davidson Sr.

Walter Davidson Sr. was instrumental in the enormous success of Harley Davidson from 1876, when he was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin until his death in 1942 while serving as the company’s first president. He single-handedly expanded their reach beyond just a local level and established them as an internationally revered motorcycle leader. Without him at the helm, who knows where Harley Davidson would be today.

William A. Davidson

Risk-taker William A. Davidson was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1870 and the eldest of three brothers. He made a bold move by resigning from his prosperous job with the Milwaukee Road railroad to buy equipment that enabled their fledgling company to meet increasing demand for motorcycles. Just like other founders, William Davidson played an incredible role in establishing Harley Davidson into its successful form today.

The Role of Wisconsin in Harley Davidson’s Early Years

Beyond Milwaukee, Wisconsin played a critical role in Harley Davidson’s inception story. For example, during his teenage summers Arthur Davidson stayed at his grandmother’s Cambridge farm and was introduced to Ole Evinrude – the famed inventor of the first successful outboard motor – who happened to also be from Wisconsin.

Together, in 1902, Evinrude and Harley-Davidson owned a pattern making (casting patterns) business. According to legend, not only did Evinrude aid the duo master their first carburetor but he also allowed them to tinker away at his machine shop.

Evinrude was instrumental in Harley Davidson’s launch, yet they weren’t the only ones to help out; Wisconsin also contributed by providing essential early venture capital.

Arthur Davidson himself borrowed $500 from his uncle with a bee farm located in Madison, and without it there would have been no possibility for Harley Davidson to begin. Thus, the state of Wisconsin had an immense involvement during the company’s formation.

It’s important to note that Wisconsin held a solid footing in advanced manufacturing and engineering at the start of the twentieth century, likely fostering Harley Davidson’s success.

The state had many adept machinists and engineers who contributed greatly to perfecting their early motorcycles. In fact, most of Harley Davidson’s original employees were from Milwaukee – providing reputable local talent.

Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Harley Davidson remains an integral part of American culture to this day. From its motorcycles that embody a sense of rebellion and freedom to the passionate global following it has accumulated over time.

Harley Davidson is not just a company but an iconic symbol for many riders and enthusiasts alike. Despite some struggles it has endured recently, the brand continues on as one of America’s most beloved companies.

Did Harley Davidson Start in Wisconsin

To finally answer the question, did Harley Davidson start in Wisconsin, without a doubt, Harley Davidson was founded in Wisconsin by four ambitious men from Milwaukee back in 1903. The state of Wisconsin did not only provide substantial venture capital for the company’s launch but also gave them access to highly skilled labor and engineering knowledge which was fundamental for early success.

To this day, Harley Davidson is a symbol of American culture – standing as an emblem of what innovation and entrepreneurship can achieve.


Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about did Harley Davidson start in Wisconsin:

Who founded Harley Davidson?

In 1903, a quartet of Milwaukee-born men — William S. Harley, Arthur Davidson Sr., Walter Davidson Sr., and William A. Davidson — formed the iconic motorcycle company we now know as Harley-Davidson.

When was Harley Davidson founded?

In 1903, Harley Davidson was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – an iconic moment that would launch the start of a legendary brand.

What was Wisconsin’s role in Harley Davidson’s founding?

Wisconsin was instrumental in the genesis of Harley Davidson. Arthur Davidson borrowed $500 from his uncle’s bee farm in Madison to launch the business, and its manufacturing hub provided an ideal atmosphere for recruiting skilled labor with engineering acumen. Without Wisconsin’s essential contributions, it is safe to say that our favorite motorcycle might not even exist.

What is the significance of Ole Evinrude’s relationship with Harley Davidson?

Arthur Davidson and Ole Evinrude, having a close bond since 1902 when they co-owned the pattern making business together, stayed in contact. Even after Ole made his groundbreaking invention of the first practical outboard motor he still had time to help Harley-Davidson perfect its very own carburetor.

Where is Harley Davidson headquartered today?

Harley Davidson has maintained their Milwaukee, Wisconsin roots since the brand’s inception.

What is Harley Davidson known for?

Inundated with a sense of liberation, Harley Davidson is renowned for creating motorcycles that embody a rebellious spirit and instill an ardent desire to explore. This historic icon of American culture has gained the loyalty and admiration from bikers everywhere who adore its iconic designs.

What challenges has Harley Davidson faced in recent years?

Despite facing some challenges due to changing consumer tastes and declining sales, Harley Davidson has taken steps to revive their brand. By diversifying its product offerings, the company is attempting to capture a new generation of customers in hopes of increasing profits.

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