((Sounds of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle))
1993: Celebrating the 90th anniversary in Milwaukee.
(Photos - Harley-Davidson)
Many people around the world know exactly what that sound is.
This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program
EXPLORATIONS. The sound you just heard is the engine of a Harley-Davidson
Motorcycle. Today, we tell about this famous American company.
And, we tell about the year-long party that is celebrating the
one-hundredth anniversary of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company.
The history of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company began in nineteen-oh-three,
in a small wooden building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Twenty-one-year-old William Harley and twenty-year-old Arthur
Davidson built a machine that looked like a bicycle with a small
engine. A friend of the two men bought one of the first motorcycles
they made. They only made three motorcycles that year.
1903: First production motorcycle.
On the door of the little wooden building, they painted a small
sign. The sign said, ¡°Harley-Davidson Motor Company.¡±
The little company grew very quickly. In nineteen-oh-six, it
opened a new factory on Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. The company
now had a total of six workers.
Two years later, in nineteen-oh-eight, the city of Detroit,
Michigan bought the first motorcycle to be used by a police
department in the United States. It was a Harley-Davidson. In
nineteen-twelve, Harley-Davidson exported a motorcycle to another
country for the first time. That country was Japan.
1908: Walter Davidson with the motorcycle he rode to a perfect
1,000 points at the American Morcyclists Endurance and Reliability
By nineteen-twenty, Harley-Davidson was the largest motorcycle
company in the world. More than two-thousand dealers sold Harley-Davidson
motorcycles. Most were in the United States. However, dealers
sold the Harley-Davidson motorcycles in more than sixty-seven
countries around the world.
The motorcycle Harley-Davidson produced in the nineteen-twenties
no longer looked like a bicycle with an engine. It was a fast,
powerful machine that provided good transportation. Harley-Davidson
motorcycle riders were winning races and setting speed records
throughout the United States.
Something else happened in nineteen-twenty that would have
a lasting effect on the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The motorcycle
became known as a ¡°Hog.¡± The company
tells this story to explain why.
A motorcycle racer named Leslie Parkhurst broke twenty-three
speed records on his Harley-Davidson. Mister Parkhurst¡¯s
racing team had a pet animal they took with them to the races.
That pet animal was a small pig, also called a hog.
When a member of the team won a race, he would take the pig
for a ride around the racetrack. The racing fans loved the show.
They would shout, ¡°The Hog won again.¡±
Today, if a motorcycle rider tells you he rides a Hog, you know
he is talking about his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Harley-Davidson has made other products besides their famous
motorcycle. Beginning in nineteen-twelve, the company began
selling clothing for motorcycle riders. Most of this clothing
had the name Harley-Davidson printed on it.
In nineteen thirty-eight, Harley-Davidson began making a special
motorcycle jacket for the New York City Police Department. The
jacket was made of heavy leather material. Harley-Davidson still
sells a very similar jacket today. It is still popular with
motorcycle riders. It is also popular with people who just like
leather jackets. Harley-Davidson also sells pants, shirts, shoes,
boots and just about everything else a motorcycle rider might
The Harley-Davidson Company has faced financial problems several
times in its history. The nineteen-thirties was a period of
severe economic problems known as the Great Depression. In nineteen-twenty,
Harley-Davidson sold twenty-seven-thousand motorcycles. However,
in nineteen-thirty-three, all of the American motorcycle companies
sold only six-thousand machines. About one-hundred other American
motorcycle companies failed during the Depression. Harley-Davidson
During the nineteen-sixties, a new threat faced Harley-Davidson.
Japanese motorcycle companies began selling their machines in
the United States. Companies like Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki
became popular. These companies produced good motorcycles that
were not very costly.
At the same time, Harley-Davidson had tried to expand too quickly.
Their motorcycles were more costly than the others. The factory
had production problems. Oil often leaked out of the engines.
The engines often failed.
People told a joke about Harley-Davidson. They said you had
to buy two of their motorcycles -- one to ride and one for the
extra parts you would need to repair it.
In nineteen-sixty-nine, Harley-Davidson officials sold control
of the company to a much larger company. They planned to use
the money they received in the sale to improve their products.
Harley-Davidson struggled to stay in business during this time.
The company says people who loved their motorcycles continued
to buy them and helped keep the company from failing.
In nineteen-eighty-one, thirteen top officials at Harley-Davidson
bought the company. They started making improvements. They began
developing a much better product. Two years later, Harley-Davidson
asked the International Trade Commission for help. The International
Trade Commission agreed and gave protection to Harley-Davidson
for five years. This protection added to the price of large
Less than four years later, Harley-Davidson asked the International
Trade Commission to end the protection. No company had ever
done this before. By lifting the protection, Harley-Davidson
was saying it could compete with any motorcycle company.
2001: President Bush visits the Milwaukee factory.
(Photo - Moreen Ishikawa/White House)
Today, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company is one of the most
successful companies in the United States. It produces about
two-hundred-forty-three-thousand motorcycles each year. It sells
all of them. The company has about eight-thousand workers. About
half of them ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. These riders
include the top official of the company, Jeffrey Bleustein.
Harley-Davidson workers not only make the product, they use
it. They also help the company by suggesting improvements.
Forbes Magazine is a top financial and business publication
in the United States. Each year it lists the companies that
it considers to be the most successful. Last year, Forbes Magazine
named Harley-Davidson its Company of the Year. That same year,
Harley-Davidson announced that the company had made a record-breaking
profit during the past fifteen years.
Harley-Davidson and the people who ride their famous motorcycles
are busy celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of the company.
They are doing this by holding a year-long birthday party. The
party began in July of this year and will end in August of next
year. The celebrations this year are local birthday parties.
Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders around the world are making
plans to celebrate in many cities next year.
For example, in March, the party will be held in Sydney, Australia.
In April, the party will move to Tokyo, Japan. In June, riders
in Europe will travel to Barcelona, Spain to celebrate. In July,
Harley-Davidson owners will ride to Hamburg, Germany for the
In August of next year, Harley-Davidson riders will begin what
is called the ¡°Ride Home.¡± Harley-Davidson
riders will cross the United States from four directions. Most
of these riders will come from the United States. However, many
will come from Europe and Asia.
There will be birthday parties held by Harley-Davidson dealers
at several cities during the trip. Plans call for the ¡°Ride
Home¡± to end in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by August
A four-day celebration and birthday party will follow. More
than two-hundred-thousand Harley-Davidson riders are expected
to attend the events. Top company official Jeffrey Bleustein
says Harley-Davidson is very excited about sharing the company¡¯s
history with family and friends from around the world.
((Motorcycle sounds, fades to theme))
This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced
by Caty Weaver. I¡¯m Mary Tillotson.
And I¡¯m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for
EXPLORATIONS, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.
This V-O-A Explorations Report is published
courtesy of VOAnews.com