By 1908 the newer Harley-Davidson factory employed 18 workers and built about 450 motorcycles per year. This was just five years after the debut of the now famous 1903 Harley-Davidson Single. The loop frame and atmospheric induction single design was pretty typical for the time; both Indian and Harley patterned their motors after the successful French design by Didion-Bouton, as did many others.

In the beginning Harley singles were not “mass produced.” In 1904 and 1905 records show the team made only eight motorcycles. Changes over these first few years were subtle, but wider tires and a Sager-Cushion leading link fork were improvements, along with a change for easier valve adjustment. The Renault gray paint came along in 1906. By 1908 manufacturing was up to 450 units so you can imagine why early Harleys are now so rare and desirable!

Knowing that performance and dependability would help sell motorcycles, Walter Davidson won the famous Brass and Horns trophy in 1908 for running 50 miles on one quart and one ounce of gasoline. This greatly enhanced the reputation of his company and impacted sales. In 1909 3100 customers rode off on new Harleys! Working to develop a motorcycle with more power as offered by some of their competition, that year Harley showed its first v-twin design, but that’s another story.

Also on display in the National Motorcycle Museum is a 1909 Harley-Davidson single. But in total over 70 Harley-Davidsons are on display including customs, land speed record, drag, dirt track, MX and road race bikes, plus hundreds of pieces of advertising artwork, signs and memorabilia. It’s a great place to view the Motor Company’s design and engineering developments and progress that made it the only American motorcycle manufacturer to survive the 20th Century. In 2018 Harley-Davidson will celebrate its 115 anniversary In Milwaukee.


  • Engine: Atmospheric Single
  • Bore & Stroke: 3.125″ x 3.5″
  • Displacement: 27 Cubic Inches / 440cc’s
  • Horsepower: Approximately 4
  • Carburetor: Schebler
  • Primary/Final Drive: Belt Drive
  • Brakes: Rear Coaster Brake
  • Electrics: 6 Volt Dry Cell/ Coil & Points
  • Frame: Single Loop, Lugged Steel
  • Fork: Sager-Licensed Cushion Fork
  • Wheelbase: 51 inches
  • Weight: 185 Pounds
  • Wheels/Tires: 2.5″ x 28″
4 replies
  1. Larry Smith
    Larry Smith says:

    I love what your doing at the museium to preserve Harleys. I have a 2001 heritage softail I brought new.
    I still love to ride. I’m 64 and not many years left to ride. maybe there will be horses and Harleys in Heaven!!!!

  2. Jim Cowperthwaite
    Jim Cowperthwaite says:

    I hear ya Larry, 1997 Heritage Springer and 65! I seem attracted to the emails and enjoy them thoroughly, some featured bikes now and then I have experienced in the day, fun reading.

  3. Bob Simmons
    Bob Simmons says:

    Keep riding guys, you are not done yet! I have a 1987 Heritage limited addition that I bought new in 1987 plus a 1940 45″ Flat head, 1981 Iron head Sportster and a 1992 Electra glide. I ride them all as often as weather in Colorado permits and I am only 78. Started riding in 1950. Don’t quit too soon.

  4. Helmuth Heinz James Serjogins
    Helmuth Heinz James Serjogins says:

    Your as old as you feel! I have a ‘48 Panhead chopper in a swing arm frame that I’ve owned and ride for 28 years. I also have a ‘78 Shovelhead stroker in a rigid frame with a girder front end. I’ve ridden that bike also for the past 18 years. I’d get a newer bike but I can never start them because I can’t find the kickstart and I am only going on 61 years of age!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *