Sturgis Motorcycle Museum - Preserving our Motorcycle Hertiage

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WILLIAM S. HARLEY


Hall of Fame Inductee - Pre 2001 (1998)


At the age of 15 William Harley started work in a Milwaukee bicycle factory and soon became a draftsman. He and his boyhood friend and neighbor, Arthur Davidson, were dedicated to the development of a motor-driven bicycle for their own use. Combined with the expertise of Arthur's brothers, William and Walter, it became the concept for the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle and the company for which it was named. 


After helping develop the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle, William Harley was still fascinated by the more technical aspects of engineering and enrolled in the School of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin. He worked his way through school, waiting tables and doing drafting in a local plant and after graduation actively rejoined partners Arthur, Walter and William Davidson. 


William was a real motorcyclist who rode some of the first Harley-Davidson motorcycles in endurance contests, finishing well consistently. Testing out his own designs for years, he understood what the motorcycle public wanted and his judgment had a profound influence on all motorcycle design.  Always an enthusiast, William could be counted on to be present at major events of the year, especially the annual races in Daytona Beach, Florida. For 24 years he served on the Competition committee of the AMA.


An avid outdoorsman and excellent hunter, he also found great fascination in photographing and sketching wildlife. He was active in both the AMA and the Business Men's Sketch Club of Milwaukee.

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