THE HARLEY-DAVIDSON MUSEUM | SPARKING THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA

Replica of the iconic Captain America chopper from Easy Rider, built by the legendary Ben Hardy at the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. — Image by © The Selvedge Yard

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Back from a month long hiatus from TSY brought on by a monumental J. Hilburn suit launch, and capped off by a mind-blowing annual conference in Las Vegas.  My bandwidth was focused on the work front, where it clearly needed to be.  An invitation from Harley-Davidson for a guided tour of their museum with archivist and an all-around great guy, Bill Jackson, was a great source of inspiration to get back in the saddle.

Speaking to me loud and clear was the spirit of America– from the H-D founding fathers and the 10′ x 15′ shed, to the early days of the “Wrecking Crew” racing team, and the legion of enthusiasts and adventurers over the last century who have lived-out their individuality on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The cultural impact that H-D has had on this great country is without a doubt– impressive and undeniable.

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An old Harley-Davidson dealer sign from the AMF years– the upside-down triangle from the AMF logo can be seen at the bottom, as the “AMF” letters were eagerly painted over by dealers across the country when 13 H-D executives united to buy back the company from AMF in 1981.  It was a period when Harley-Davidson’s quality and culture suffered, but the resulting acquisition of the York, PA production facility from AMF would prove to be critical to H-D’s long-term survival and growth. — Image by © The Selvedge Yard

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Tiled facade wall at the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee, WI — Image by © The Selvedge Yard

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The Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. — Image by © The Selvedge Yard

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1979 Harley-Davidson Low Rider (the same bike my stepfather rode that had a big impact on me– the grey/black/red paint scheme is epic) at H-D’s Milwaukee museum. Two things he impressed upon me– never ride a Sportster (chick bike), and never use your electric start (for pussies). — Image by © The Selvedge Yard

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Harley-Davidson logo’d floor mats at the entrance to the museum — Image by © The Selvedge Yard

More to come on Harley-Davidson…

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RELATED TSY POSTS:

HOG WILD OVER HARLEY-DAVIDSON | THE “HOG BOYS” OF EARLY H-D HISTORY

17 thoughts on “THE HARLEY-DAVIDSON MUSEUM | SPARKING THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA

  1. Still have my 78 Low Rider after 27 years, and after 40+ years I still ride a kick-only bike…

  2. glad, you’re back on the track! i’d love to see a naked bike selection one of these months… buell, triumph, ducati. i’m sure you could come up with rare finds.

  3. I generally enjoy reading this website and normally like the pictures, but this time I don’t. Colors are way off and I don’t get the point of the whole thing. I myself ride a nice cruiser motorcyle all year round if possible and love it (albeit no Harley since they are too expensive and there is no dealer around here).

    Back to topic however, I prefer pictures where something is going on, some race or some chicks leaning back on bikes etc. Motorcycles themselves are just a means of transportation when no context is given, I think.
    Put Peter Fonda on Caiptain America and you have a great picture since a message can be read into it. Something about freedom, landscape, wind in hair and such stuff.
    Put Caiptain America into a museum, the message is completely different and sad somehow.

    Yes, somehow depressing this pictures are, this is what bugs me about them.

    • “Motorcycles themselves are just a means of transportation when no context is given”. Maybe if it’s a Gold Wing…. These bikes are in context already…. they are HD’s! True American Muscle. The chrome, the tanks, the leather…AMERICA! No more context is needed. These picture are brilliant. They make me actually want to take a trip to Milwaukee, WI. (That’s saying a lot). I’m sure there will be some more pics coming that will lift your spirits.

  4. They just unveiled “Collection X” a new exhibit that will run through summer . Can’t wait ! My son and I are going 7/1/2011.

  5. The only complaint I might have, would be that this was too short! I wish you had mentioned a little more about the museum address & its move back to Milwaukee, Keep up the good work! Ross

    • Good news….read the last sentence. “More to come on Harley Davidson…” Sort of a TSY “To Be Continued”

  6. Greetings
    I was referred to your blog a month ago and I’ve really dug trawling through your cultural touchstones. Not at all unlike mine.
    Among other pursuits, I’m a motorcyclist, got a 2006 Triumph Sprint ST1050 and a 2002 Suzuki SV650S. When you describe Harley Davidson as the Spirit Of America, it grieves me – because, as an Australian, I’ve always considered the USA a bastion of innovation and individuality. Yet no motorcyclist in their right mind could seriously apply those two traits to HD. Maybe it works differently in the US, and those hordes of overweight middle-aged men on Softtails and RoadKings really do mean something individual, other than what it means here.
    Air-cooled pushrod V-twins are to motorcycles what the P-51 is to fighter planes. HD have, in the last few weeks, finally applied for a patent for water-cooled heads.
    Check out the Roehr website, especially their sportsbike running the sadly unacknowledged V-Rod engine – with a supercharger. Now THAT’S innovation and individuality and that’s why I’m damned glad I live in a world with the USA.
    Love your blog, JP, keep it up. Allow me to argue the point sometimes.
    Cheers
    Earl

  7. The Sportster’s a girl’s bike, tired of that… but we’re not in the 70’s anymore, and..

    Try moving a Big Twin in chaotic traffic down here in Mexico City, the only thing you’ll get for sure is a pair of boiled balls. Now, put a nice 1200 sporster swerving almost effortlessly in between those cars, and well, now we’re talking!!!

    Cheers.

  8. So tired of the condescending Sportster rap. I rode a ’97 Sportster 1200 Custom for the better part of ten years and loved the bike, though admittedly have discovered a deeper appreciation and affection for my 2011 Road King. If I had had the room I would have kept my Sportster instead of trading it in.

  9. Always thought bikes like the Electra Glide (or rip-offs like the Honda Gold Wing), were an abomination against god and nature. Why not just get a Volkswagen camper van!?

    As I’ve gotten older, I realize maybe it depends on your situation and where you ride. My thing has always been shorter runs on country roads (half a day to a day), not long distance tours. Therefore the XR1200 or some of the sportsters would be more my style.

    I’ll never be old enough to ride a tourer.

  10. Dear JP,
    glad to see you are back. I loved the HD Museum piece and look forward to the “to be continued”. As Earl points out I am proud to be “one of those overweight middle aged Americans” that after 32 years of service to this great Country of ours I enjoy throwing me leg over my Road Glide and hitting the open roads in a semi-retired status. I will only drive/ride AMERICAN made. I am extremely lucky in that my company is sponsoring a private party at the HD Museum the evening of August 10th during a conference. I cannot wait! Cheers

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