Arthur Davidson (motorcycling)

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Arthur Davidson
Head and shoulders of white middle aged man in 1920s suit and tie
Born(1881-02-11)February 11, 1881[1]
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
DiedDecember 30, 1950(1950-12-30) (aged 69)[1]
Cause of deathCar accident
Resting placeForest Home Cemetery[1]
OccupationSecretary and Sales Manager of Harley-Davidson
Years active1901–1950
Known forCo-founder of Harley-Davidson
Home townMilwaukee, Wisconsin
Spouse(s)Clara Beisel
ChildrenMargaret Davidson (daughter)
Arthur Davidson Jr. (elder son)
James Davidson (younger son)
Parent(s)William C. Davidson (father)
Margaret Adams McFarlane (mother)
RelativesWilliam A. Davidson (eldest brother)
Walter Davidson Sr. (older brother)

Arthur Davidson Sr. (11 February 1881 – December 30, 1950)[1] was an American businessman. He was one of the four original founders of Harley-Davidson.

Early life[edit]

Arthur Davidson was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to William C Davidson (1846-1923) who was born and grew up in Angus, Scotland and Margaret Adams McFarlane (1843-1933) of Scottish descent from the small Scottish settlement of Cambridge, Wisconsin and raised five children together, Janet May, William A., Walter, Arthur and Elizabeth.[2] Arthur's grandfather Alexander "Sandy" Davidson (from Aberlemno, Scotland) and Margaret Scott[3] immigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1858 with their six children including Arthur's father William.

Eventually they settled in Wisconsin and it was there that, in 1903, Arthur, went into business with William S. Harley, making motorcycles in his family shed.[4] One of Davidson's favorite pastimes was fishing in the Wisconsin wilderness, which inspired him to create a motorcycle that would, "take the hard work out of pedaling a bicycle". He was a story teller, salesman, and United States patriot. During World Wars I and II, Arthur and company diverted motorcycle production to support US troops.[5] This act was rewarded with returning troops ready, trained and willing to buy Harley-Davidson branded motorcycles.[citation needed]

The "Honey Uncle" story is one of the family stories told about Davidson and a pivotal moment for the fate of Harley-Davidson company. One day shortly after Davidson's cleaning lady visited, he discovered the seed money he had stashed between his mattress to start Harley-Davidson was missing.[citation needed] Davidson was able to borrow the $500 in venture capital needed for Harley-Davidson from an uncle who owned a bee farm in Madison, Wisconsin.[citation needed] From then on, the uncle was known as the "Honey Uncle" for helping the business get off the ground.[6] The bee farm on Lake Mendota was later sold to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and is now known as Picnic Point in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.[7]

Arthur Davidson was credited with the slogan, "Take the Work out of Bicycling," which inspired him and his 21-year-old friend Harley as they worked tirelessly in a 10 x 15 foot shed.[citation needed]

Arthur Davidson Sr. was killed at the age of 69 in a two car collision 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Davidson's home, a dairy farm, on Wisconsin Highway 59 near Waukesha, Wisconsin on December 30, 1950. Also killed in the accident were Davidson's wife, Clara, as well as Dorothy and Donald Jeffery.[8] Davidson was survived by his three children, Margaret, Arthur Jr. and James Davidson.[citation needed]

Labor Hall of Fame[edit]

Because Arthur Davidson, William A. Davidson, Walter Davidson and William S. Harley, "both used and believed in its products and relied on the dedication of its employees to produce quality motorcycles", the four men were inducted into the Labor Hall of Fame.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d [better source needed]Arthur Davidson at Find a Grave
  2. ^ Growing Up Harley-Davidson By Jean Davidson.
  3. ^ Growing Up Harley-Davidson By Jean Davidson.
  4. ^ Cowing, Emma (13 May 2012). "Harley-Davidson devotees rescue crumbling Scots home of legendary motorbike maker". The Scotsman. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  5. ^ "World War Two Harley Davidson WLA & WLC Motorcycles Available!". Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  6. ^ Herbert Wagner (2003). At the Creation: Myth, Reality, and the Origin of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, 1901-1909. Wisconsin Historical Society Press. ISBN 978-0-87020-351-0.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Motorcycle Expert, 3 Others Die In Crash", The New York Times, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, The New York Times (1851-2007), p. 45, December 31, 1950
  9. ^

External links[edit]