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Authored by Kerri Fitzgerald
February 15, 2017

Milwaukee's Best: The Harley-Davidson Museum

The history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles dates back to the early 1900s when 21-year-old William S. Harley sketched plans for a motor-bicycle engine. Over the next few years, Harley teamed up with the Davidson brothers, Arthur Davidson and Walter Davidson, to build a functioning motorcycle. Working out of a small wooden shed in the Davidson’s backyard in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they completed the first Harley-Davidson model and made them available to the public in 1903. The motorcycles later survived the Great Depression and were used in WWI and WWII by the U.S.




Opening in 2008, the Harley-Davidson Museum celebrates more than 100 years of history of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Located near downtown Milwaukee, visitors can experience the history of the motor company from its start as a global, independently owned motorcycle manufacturer to its development in color and design.

Harley-Davidson Museum Outside


Highlights of the museum include its Custom Culture exhibit; this section shows off the customization movement of motorcycles over time including Elvis Presley's 1956 Harley-Davidson KH. Harley-Davidson isn’t just about looks; it’s about the riding experience too. In the museum’s experience gallery, people can sit atop a legendary bike while watching a video to experience the ride all over America. The museum’s Engine Room wall represents the family tree of Harley-Davidson engines from its initial years to today.


Harley-Davidson Engine Room Wall


In the museum’s design lab, visitors can look back on handwritten designs and prototypes of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle that led to today’s quality bikes. This exhibit includes interactive displays to share the mechanics of the engines. In the motorcycle gallery, visitors can follow a line of bikes that reveal the change in color, shape and overall design of the motorcycles. Visitors can also create their own Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the build-a-bike interactive station.

Harley-Davidson Museum

Guests on Blount Small Ship Adventure's 8 day lake michigan cruise will be visiting the Harley Davidson Museum while in Milwaukee where the ship docks for the day. The museum commemorates a combination of the best American design and culture, mixed with independence and rebellion. 

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