Harley-Davidson History 1903-1910 Part 2

In 1908,Walter Davidson became the first rider to achieve a perfect score in the Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The boost his victory gave the Harley-Davidson motorcycle was paramount because the next year, production nearly tripled to 1,149 bikes. Also in 1908, the young Motor Company made its first sale to a Police Department in Detroit, Mich.; sales to law enforcement agencies continue to the present day.

harley-davidson 1909 Vtwin profile shot
In 1909, Harley-Davidson created its first experimental V-twin engine

For the entire first decade, the founders recognized the need to be competitive with the fast-growing motorcycle industry. In 1909, Harley-Davidson unveiled its first V-Twin engine. What started as a mere interest in increased horsepower become the most enduring symbol of American motorcycling. In the latter part of the century, overseas competition brought out their own V-Twins, touting their “Classic American Styling.” One year after the introduction of the V-Twin, the Company trademarked its new logo– a shield with a bar overlapping it with the words “Harley-Davidson Motor Cycles” incorporated within the design.

Today’s Harley-Davidson employees take great pride in contributing to a product that defines motorcycling. One wonders what William Harley and the Davidson brothers felt as the first decade of the 20th century ended. In less than 10 years, they had started with little more than an idea, and had ended up building almost 5,000 motorcycles. They had already gained a firm foothold in competitive arenas like racing, and had earned the confidence of law enforcement.

But they had much more work to do, and their motivation would lead them to more.

Story by Bill Jackson, Harley-Davidson Senior Archivist. See what’s up at the H-D museum for more great history stuff.

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