Harley-Davidson, Inc. started as a partnership between a draftsman and a pattern maker in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1903. William Harley and Arthur Davidson intrigued by the newly invented motorcycles began experimenting with ideas to design and build their own motorcycle. They enlisted Arthur's brothers, Walter a skilled mechanic and William a machinist which gave live to the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. That early partnership has evolved into a family of millions of Harley-Davidson, Inc. stakeholders throughout the world.

In 1901, in Milwaukee, William Harley, 21, and Arthur Davidson, 20, Worked full time for Barth Manufacturing, a metal fabrication company. William was a draftsman and Arthur was a pattern maker, The after hours project would consume most of the next two years. At the time neither young man had any plans for a manufacturing company. their first objective had been to produce an outboard motor, In order to reach their favorite fishing spots more easily but soon they were captivated by this new device called a Motorcycle. Their first effort failed when they learned that a regular bicycle frame was not strong enough and the engine they used was not big enough.

In 1903, three men from Milwaukee had a really unique view of what they thought motorized bicycling should be. In a 10X13 foot shed with the words “Harley-Davidson Motor Company” crudely scrawled on the door, with borrowed tools, and some metal, late April older brother Walter came home for Arthur?s wedding,Walter Worked in Parsons Kansas for one of the Rail roads, as an apprentice machinist in their tool shop.

Frustrated by the kind of work he saw one of his brothers hired men performing, Walter took over.  Walter returned to Kansas but not for long. Soon he was back in Milwaukee, working nights and weekends for his brother after working days for another Railroad in their shops Arthur and Walter Davidson along with Bill Harley set out to build the very first Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The bike was built to be a racer, with a 3-1/8 inch bore and 3-1/2 inch stroke. Using only a three horsepower engine, The first Harley-Davidson production engine was built. Assistance on the carburetor design came from Ole Evinrude, who soon afterwards became a pioneer in outboard motors. The trio designed a unique loop frame, which would set it apart from any other cycle in its time.

They would go on to build a total of three bikes in their first year.  Henry Meyer of Milwaukee, a school yard pal of William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson, buys one of the 1903 models directly from the founders. with the added expertise of draftsman Emil Kroger they set about the task of building a real motorcycle. Kroger had worked in Europe on the first renditions of the de Dion internal combustion engine, and brought the drawings with him to the United States. The first Harley-Davidson Dealer, C.H. Lang of Chicago, Ill., opens for business and sells one of the first three production Harley-Davidson motorcycles ever made

The company was also producing carburetors, marine engines and propellors. William Harley was quick to realize that the growing business required expertise beyond that which any of the founders had, so he enrolled in engineering at the University of Wisconsin.

On July 4th, 1905, a H-D motorcycle wins a 15 mile race in Chicago with a time of 19:02. In Milwaukee, with production rising to eight machines, Walter Davidson quit the railroad and became the first full time employee of the Harley Davidson Motor Company. The first full time employee was hired has his assistant. Bill Harley, foreseeing the need for greater in house capability in building engines, left for the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study engineering with special emphasis on the internal combustion engine. Aunt Janet Davidson was responsible for the decorative features on the first motorcycles, creating the Harley Davidson log for the tank and applying the stripping trim. For the first three years the motorcycles were painted black, with gold stripping and red lettering.

In 1907, Indians Wars begin! Harley-Davidson sells stock to family and employees. William A. Davidson, brother to Arthur and Walter Davidson, quits his job as tool foreman for the Milwaukee railroad and joins the Motor Company. Harley-Davidson Motor Company is incorporated on September 17th. The stock is split four ways between the four founders, and staff size has more than doubled from the previous year to eighteen employees. Factory size is doubled as well. Dealer recruitment begins, targeting the New England region.
Walter Davidson is 1st President. Arthur Davidson is Sales Mgr. William Davidson Factory Mgr.William Harley is Chief Engineer

In 1908 Walter Davidson scores a perfect 1,000 points at the 7th Annual Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest. Three days after the contest, Walter sets the FAM economy record at 188.234 miles per gallon. Word of Harley-Davidson’s extremely tough motorcycle spreads rapidly. The first motorcycle sold for police duty is delivered to the Detroit, Mich., police dept.

In 1909, the six-year-old Harley-Davidson Motor Company introduces its first V-twin powered motorcycle. With a displacement of 49.5 cubic inches, the bike produces seven horsepower. The image of two cylinders in a 45-degree configuration would fast become one of the most enduring icons of Harley-Davidson history. Also available for the first time from the Motor Company are spare parts for motorcycles.