William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson: How a Couple of Lazy Twenty-Somethings Created an American Icon

By Karen Harris
Walter Davidson, the first president of the Harley Davidson Motor Company, poses with his bike after winning the 1908 Federation of American Motorcyclists' endurance run. Source: (gettyimages.com)

The year was 1901. A new form of transportation was America’s newest obsession…the bicycle. The one-man, pedal-powered bikes were all the rage. Turn-of-the-century Americans loved the freedom and ease of transportation that the bicycle afforded them. Everyone was hooked on bikes. Except for 21-year old William S. Harley and his 20-year old childhood buddy, Arthur Davidson. They found the hard work of pedaling a bike to be…well, hard work. Wouldn’t it be nice, they dreamed if a motorized bike did all the pedaling for you? Harley and Davidson’s desire to take the pedal out of pedal-powered bikes ended with one of the greatest American icons, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle.