Cover image for At the creation : myth, reality, and the origin of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, 1901-1909
At the creation : myth, reality, and the origin of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, 1901-1909
Wagner, Herbert, 1952-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Madison : Wisconsin Historical Society Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxvi, 228 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD9710.5.U64 H3379 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



At the Creation by Herbert Wagner brings to life the human side of Harley-Davidson's quest to motorize the bicycle and then to promote it as a powerful, fast, reliable, and thrilling means of personal transportation. This book examines the origins of two-wheeled transportation from a time when combining the gasoline engine with the bicycle was the province of dreamers and con men. This is the definitive account of the beginnings of the only American motorcycle brand to ultimately succeed and survive.

Backed by a decade of research, At the Creation documents for the first time the early years of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle in its birthplace of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an area that was an early center of motorcycle manufacturing. Previous books on Harley-Davidson have failed to adequately cover this critical period, which has been described as the "era of mystery" by Harley-Davidson company historian Martin Jack Rosenblum. At the Creation takes on several long-standing puzzles and myths, and then, through the use of period documents and original photographs, recreates the actual events of Harley's first years as they most plausibly occurred.

Author Notes

Herbert Wagner is a recognized authority on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He has written or contributed to five other books and has published many articles on the subject. He recently contributed to Forbes magazine's special Harley-Davidson 100 year anniversary publication. He has also served as a consulting historian for Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc.'s Annual Reports. The author is an active motorcycle rider and has restored several older Harleys to original vintage condition.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The online version of Books in Print for "Harley-Davidson" shows 180 items, not all histories--but one can assume a number of them are. What makes At the Creation stand out is that it is concerned only with the very first years of the company, 1901-09. Wagner devotes 187 pages to these early years to provide the true history of the company as he debunks myths that originated in the advertising department. In wonderful detail, he charts the origin of the company as it changed for marketing purposes--if Indian motorcycles were around a little longer, the ads would suggest that Harley-Davidson was actually up and running a few years earlier than Indian was--and so the myth began. It is interesting to see how one dubious advertisement leads to a publication based on a third interpretation that has nothing to do with the facts ... a very intriguing journey, all straightened out by Wagner. The book is nicely constructed and has numerous photographs and copies of early advertisements. A true history that should be read by anyone interested in the early automobile and motorcycle industry. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels. C. J. Myers Arcadia University