The name Harley Davidson need not be explained; even people who have never rode a motorcycle recognize the name as the true pioneer of the American motorcycle, and worldwide leader in motorcycle technology. The rich heritage of Harley Davidson wasn’t achieved solely by building motorcycles for the general public, and as a matter of fact if it wasn’t for the U.S. Military and Police departments throughout the United States the world’s largest and most popular motorcycle manufacture would have collapsed long before it earned its reputation as the finest motorcycle ever built.
The humble beginnings of the Harley begin in 1903 with the introduction of their first “functional” motorcycle. While most of the general public were not quite sure about this motorized “bicycle” it wasn’t long till these early versions of the Harley were being sold almost as fast as they could be built.
New Harley models were being introduced every year, but it wasn’t until 1908 when the Detroit Police Department took delivery of the first police motorcycle that the Harley would earn its name as a true American workhorse. The Detroit Police Department saw the Harley Davidson motorcycle as a valuable tactical tool that gave them an advantage in combating crime with its speed and mobility. Soon other police department around the U.S. followed suit, and began to incorporate the Harley Davidson into their patrol squads.
The use of the Harley Davidson motorcycle was soon considered a “must have” tool for police departments around the U.S. and when World War I broke out; roughly 20,000 motorcycles were drafted into military service. Fitted with a variety of military equipment the Harley was found to be invaluable tool for dispatching highly mobile patrols and delivering messages in lieu of reliable radio communication.
As the need to protect rural areas and enforce prohibition, state police forces were being formed in many states, and the vehicle of choice for this important task was the Harley Davidson motorcycle because of the motorcycles speed, maneuverability giving the police a substantial advantage over speeders and high speed chases. According to Harley Davidson by the end of the 1920’s more that 3,000 police departments, state and government agencies were using Harley Davidson motorcycles.
The Great Depression of 1929 hit manufactures hard, including Harley Davidson who saw sales drop off each year, but remarkably was able to hold on with aggressive marketing of its motorcycles to police and government agencies and they even involved in campaigns for nation traffic safety.
Continuing on it is rich heritage of building the finest American motorcycles; the Harley Davidson name is synonymous with quality and American craftsmanship. Harley Sales records boast that more than 3,400 U.S. police departments compared to twenty years ago when numbers showed slightly over 400 state and local departments were using their motorcycles.
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