Cover image for Growing up Harley-Davidson : memoirs of a motorcycle dynasty
Growing up Harley-Davidson : memoirs of a motorcycle dynasty
Davidson, Jean, 1937-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Stillwater, MN : Voyageur Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
272 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL140.D34 A3 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Motorcycles have been a way of life for Jean Davidson. Her grandfather was Walter Davidson, one of the four founders and the first president of Harley-Davidson. Her father was company vice president Gordon Davidson. And Jean herself was a Harley-Davidson dealer, rubbing elbows with all the Harleys and Davidsons as well as the Hell's Angels and Outlaws, famous racers, and Evel Knievel. This is the history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles no one else knew-until now! Here is the fairy-tale story of how four boys built their first motorcycle in a shed; how a slippery-handed maid stole all the company's earnings from the coffee can that served as their "bank"; and how a hermit uncle donated his life's savings to resurrect the company and set it on the path to becoming the world's most famous motorcycle maker. Here is the inside scoop on behind-the-boardroom-door politics and corporate battles, the unknown history of the first Knucklehead and Sportster, the secret friendship with arch-rival Indian motorcycles, and more. Here are family stories and rare photos from the family album that no one else has seen before.

Author Notes

Jean Davidson is the granddaughter of Walter Davidson, one of the four founders and the first president of Harley-Davidson. Jean began riding a Harley at age 12, was a Harley dealer in Milwaukee, and rubbed shoulders with all the Harleys and Davidsons, famous racers, Hell's Angels and Outlaws, and Evel Knievel

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Partly a personal memoir but primarily a history of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company, this is a pleasant departure from the many other company histories. Written by a granddaughter of one of the company's founders, it focuses mainly on the company's formation and growth during the early to mid-1900s and has the added perspective of details and commentary on the personal, social, and working lives of Harley's founding families. Much of this is anecdotal, derived from memories, family stories, and diaries, and will surely contribute to the lore that surrounds the Harley-Davidson motorcycle for example, that it was developed as a quicker, more fun way to get to the fishing hole than by bicycle. The observations, perspectives, and style of the book make it interesting and useful, although some of the material is sketchy or doesn't tie in well. Vintage photographs add interest but often have little link with adjoining text. A good addition for public library motorcycling collections and perhaps for academic libraries seeking historical material on Harley-Davidson. David Van de Streek, Pennsylvania State Univ. Libs., York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Arthur Harley Davidson
Foreword: Memoirs of a Motorcycle Dynastyp. 10
Prologue: Motorcycles as a Way of Lifep. 12
Davidson Clan Family Treep. 16
Harley-Davidson Motorcycling Timelinep. 18
Chapter 1 From Scotland to Wisconsinp. 26
Chapter 2 Two Boys with a Dreamp. 32
Chapter 3 Out of the Basement and into the Shedp. 44
Chapter 4 The Honey Uncle to the Rescuep. 56
Chapter 5 That Silent Gray Fellowp. 64
Chapter 6 Racing to Competep. 74
Chapter 7 A Family Affairp. 78
Chapter 8 Turning Iron into Goldp. 90
Chapter 9 Family Mattersp. 108
Chapter 10 Do You Know Where Your Children Are?p. 142
Chapter 11 The Next Generation: My Dad Joins the Companyp. 154
Chapter 12 The Motorcycle That Saved Harley-Davidsonp. 172
Chapter 13 Harley-Davidson Goes to Warp. 184
Chapter 14 Grandfather Dictates the Future from His Hospital Bedp. 186
Chapter 15 The Birth of a Boy Brings Joy--and Sadness--to Our Familyp. 192
Chapter 16 The Original Harley-Davidson Rebelp. 198
Chapter 17 My Love Affair with Motorcyclesp. 216
Chapter 18 The Demise of Indian Motorcyclesp. 220
Chapter 19 Elvis Presley, King of the Roadp. 232
Chapter 20 Bad Reputationp. 234
Chapter 21 Playing the Charadep. 244
Chapter 22 A Dealership of Our Ownp. 248
Chapter 23 Evel Knievel, All-American Daredevilp. 256
Chapter 24 The Sale and Buy-Back of Harley-Davidsonp. 260
Epilogue: Growing Up Harley-Davidsonp. 266
Indexp. 268