Ex-Motorcyclist staff writer, current Milwaukee-residing advertising man, and all-around good guy Aaron Frank’s new book puts an interesting twist on telling the tale of Harley-Davidson. Rather than rehashing the history of all the models – though there’s a bit of that here for all the major updates – Frank worked in cooperation with the H-D Museum in Milwaukee to look back through the lens of the museum’s holdings and displays. It makes sense, since the museum staff has already gone through the painstaking work of winnowing God-knows how many H-D artifacts into what will fit in a 130,000-square foot building. Buildings. If you’ve been to the museum, you’re already familiar with what a lot of fascinating objets d’ Harley, and Harley people it contains.
Are you an American? Are you a motorcyclist? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you absolutely owe it to yourself to go and visit the Harley-Davidson Museum. You could also be neither, and I would still encourage you to check it out. You will not be disappointed, I promise you that. By now, if you’ve read any of my articles, you already know I’m a big H-D fan. I grew up on and around Harleys and their chopper variants my whole life – it’s in my blood – so visiting the Harley-Davidson museum has been on my bucket list since forever, and I’m glad to have finally crossed it off.
Willie G. Davidson, grandson of Harley-Davidson founder William A. Davidson, says he was born with gasoline in his veins and a crayon in each hand. From June 13 to September 7, the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee will reveal a little bit more about H-D’s de facto lead designer for the past half-a-century. Willie G. Davidson: Artist, Designer, Leader, Legend is designed to take the visitor inside the mind of the man who became Harley’s first design director, in 1963. Willie G. has created a string of designs that define Harley-Davidson to the world, beginning with the 1971 FX Super Glide.
You can’t get much more of an American icon than Harley-Davidson. Ranked among the most recognizable brands in the world, along with the likes of Coca-Cola and Apple, the manufacturer has overcome its fair share of ups and downs over the years but is still here to tell the tale. Needless to say it has certainly earned the right to celebrate a century and a decade of building two-wheeled freedom machines exclusively in the U S of A.
Every year since 1915, Harley-Davidson has put aside one example of each of its models. Call it foresight on behalf of the founders, but today we’re glad they did. It may be hard to believe, but prior to 2008, all of these bikes, along with other historical remnants of the company’s past, had been spread out between H-D’s corporate office, dealerships, private collections and even sheds tucked away in rural America. Sadly, but inevitably, some pieces have also been lost to father time.