11 People You Should Know from Harley-Davidson History

Countless riders, employees, and fans have been at the heart of Harley-Davidson's 120 year history. Meet some of these innovative, dynamic, and hardworking individuals.

Gertrude Hoffmann postcard (1919)Harley-Davidson Museum

Carl Herman "C. H." Lang

C. H. Lang (far right) emigrated to the United States from Germany. Already a motorcyclist, he became the first Harley-Davidson® dealer in 1904. His previous business was manufacturing tools for the piano tuning trade.

Carl Herman "C. H." Lang

Lang later competed as a racer, served as president of the Chicago Motorcycle Club and organized rides for local motorcycle owners. This tradition would go on to prove to be a cornerstone of the motorcycling business.

Find out more about the early years of Harley-Davidson

Avis and Effie in Utah (1915)Harley-Davidson Museum

Effie and Avis Hotchkiss

In May of 1915, Effie Hotchkiss and her mother Avis left their home in Brooklyn, New York on a Harley-Davidson® model 11-J and sidecar. Over the next several months, they crossed the U.S., dipped their wheels in the Pacific Ocean at San Francisco and returned home.

Effie and Avis Hotchkiss

Their adventure included extreme weather, camping, making new friends with other riders, and facing challenges like filling a deflated tire with a rolled-up blanket to keep going. When finished, they became the first female transcontinental riders. 

William H. Davidson (1930)Harley-Davidson Museum

William H. Davidson

The son of co-founder William A. Davidson, "Bill" Davidson proved to be an accomplished rider, winning the challenging Jack Pine enduro at age 25—with a perfect performance of 1000 total points! He formally joined the Motor Company in 1928, eventually becoming President in 1942.

William H. Davidson

His leadership was punctuated by challenges including World War II, when H-D supported the allied military while also keeping the civilian business alive, as well as rising international competition and recessions. He retired in 1973.

Check out the first company anniversary

Hap Jameson by Harley-Davidson Motor CompanyHarley-Davidson Museum

Howard "Hap" Jameson

Hap Jameson met co-founder Arthur Davidson in 1911. Arthur offered him a job on the spot, and Howard started at HDMC in 1912. His background in electrical work was the initial reason for his hiring.

Howard "Hap" Jameson

He would go on to serve as an ambassador to clubs, lead publicity for the Motor Company, write an advice column for riders in The Enthusiast magazine (under the pen name Uncle Frank), and eventually run his own dealership.

Early Women Riders at the Factory (1914)Harley-Davidson Museum

Crystal Haydel

Crystal (far left) was one of the first women to work at Harley-Davidson, possibly the very first. She was with H-D as early as 1907, starting as Cashier. Like the founders and other employees, she was a motorcyclist and advocated for new riders to join the sport.

Crystal Haydel

By the time she passed away in 1949, she was a member of the Board of Directors. At her death, President William H. Davidson wrote that “Miss Haydel was a key figure in all major decisions.”

Read what she and other female riders thought about motorcycling

Fred H. Warr (1965)Harley-Davidson Museum

Fred H. Warr

Fred H. Warr was the son of a London motorcycle dealer who had begun his business in 1924. After World War II, they purchased and refurbished used military H-D® motorcycles, then sold them to keep their business alive. Not long after, they became exclusively H-D® dealers.

Fred H. Warr

When Fred took over the family business in 1956, Warr’s Harley-Davidson® was the sole dealership in the U.K. Fred co-founded the Harley-Davidson Riders Club of Great Britain and partook in rallies and races, including winning the prestigious RAC National Rally in 1974.

Dot at the Dealer Conference (1952)Harley-Davidson Museum

Dorothy "Dot" Robinson

Dorothy's father was Jim Goulding, owner of a sidecar manufacturing firm and also became a Harley-Davidson dealer® in Saginaw, Michigan. At 16, Dot was working in the dealership. Later she and her husband, Earl Robinson, bought the dealership and moved it to Detroit.

Dorothy "Dot" Robinson

She competed in grueling endurance runs, including winning the infamous Jack Pine enduro—the first woman to do so. But her most lasting legacy was co-founding the Motor Maids, the first national women’s motorcycle club, which is still active today.

Find out more about Dot

Photograph (ca. 1965)The Strong National Museum of Play

Bessie Stringfield

Bessie Stringfield was born in 1912 and got her first experience as a motorcyclist at age 16. By 1930, she was traveling the U.S. on a motorcycle, including places that would not serve non-whites and “sundown” towns that prohibited black people from being present after sunset.

Bessie Stringfield

She served as a civilian motorcycle courier, which included advanced motorcycle training, carrying parcels between U.S. Army bases. Bessie also raced on flat tracks, and she became known for her riding activity in the years following the war.

Parker on flat track (1997)Harley-Davidson Museum

Scott Parker

Scott Parker started riding at 6 years old and was competing by age 12. At 17 he turned professional, winning Rookie of the Year for the AMA flat track circuit for 1979. He joined the Harley-Davidson® racing team mid-season in 1981.

Scott Parker

He won his first Grand National Championship in 1988, ultimately winning 9 championships within the next 11 seasons (1988-1998). With his final victory at Springfield, Illinois in 2000, Parker left the sport with 94 career victories, an all-time record that still stands.

William G. (Willie G.) Davidson (1952)Harley-Davidson Museum

William G. "Willie G." Davidson

The grandson of co-founder William A. Davidson, William G. Davidson formally joined the Motor Company in 1963 after studying art and design. He formed a Styling department dedicated to the design of motorcycles and components. 

William G. "Willie G." Davidson

In his 49-year tenure, Willie G. led the design of iconic models including the Super Glide® (1971), the Café Racer (1977) and the Fat Boy® (1990). He set the standard for retaining the look that made H-D® motorcycles popular, while continuing to move motorcycle design forward.

Vaughn Beals (1984) by Harley-Davidson Motor CompanyHarley-Davidson Museum

Vaughn Beals Jr.

Vaughn Beals joined AMF Harley-Davidson in 1975 as Deputy Group Executive for Motorcycle Products. By the late 1980s, AMF was seeking to divest itself of H-D. Vaughn rallied company leaders and others to offer to buy HDMC back from AMF.

Vaughn Beals Jr.

HDMC then faced unprecedented difficulties including a recession, downturn in the market, and quality issues. He assembled leadership and the team executed the most comprehensive transformation in company history. By 1986, H-D made its first post-AMF public offering of stock.

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