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From its humble beginnings in a Milwaukee wood shed in 1903, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle has gone from a couple test models to a publicly traded corporation worth billions of dollars. Commonly called “Harleys” and “Hogs,” Harley-Davidson motorcycles are American icons known for their patented, choppy-sounding engines and cruising potential.
Harley-Davidson was incorporated in 1907, and began selling motorcycles to the public and to police departments that same year. The company experienced steady growth, and later made cycles for the U.S. military during World War I. Despite sales and production dropping severely during the Great Depression, Harley-Davidson was one of two U.S. motorcycle manufacturers to survive the economic downturn. By the 1940s, the company resumed sales to the U.S. Army for the nation’s World War II efforts and subsequently grew its consumer sales again.
A myriad of motorcycles, parts, clothing, novelty goods, and accessories are available today, and can be purchased online or at swap meets, dealers, and aftermarket suppliers. Vintage items from the 20th century typically bring the highest prices, as well as anything created as an anniversary edition.
The 1907 Harley-Davidson "Strap Tank" Single motorcycle is considered one of the most rare and expensive motorcycles in existence. In March 2015, one model sold at a Las Vegas auction for $650,000
The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin houses over 450 motorcycles and artifacts
Harley-Davidson once tried to gain trademark protection for the “thump, thump, thump” sound of its motorcycles, but dropped its application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, citing cost and agency opposition to be factors in the decision