Arthur Davidson (motorcycling)

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For other people named Arthur Davidson, see Arthur Davidson (disambiguation).
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
Died December 30, 1950(1950-12-30) (aged 69)[1]
Wisconsin Highway 59 near Waukesha, Wisconsin, United States
Cause of death Car accident
Resting place Forest Home Cemetery[1]
Ethnicity Scottish[2]
Occupation Secretary and Sales Manager of Harley-Davidson
Years active 1901–1950
Known for Co-founder of Harley-Davidson
Home town Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Spouse(s) Clara Beisel
Parent(s) William C. Davidson and Margaret Adams McFarlane
Relatives William A. Davidson, Walter Davidson, Sr.

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

Early life[edit]

Arther Davidson was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his father William C Davidson (son of (Alexander Davidson b. Brechin, Scotland) a blacksmith who owned a smithy in Netherton, Scotland,[3] had emigrated to the United States around the year 1857 where he became a cabinet maker and married Margaret McFarlane in 1867.[4] His mother was Margaret Adams McFarlane (born: 1843 Cambridge, Wisconsin) was also of Scottish descent.[5]

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.[6] 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] Fortunately, 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.[citation needed] 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 and James Davidson.[citation needed]

Labor Hall of Fame[edit]

Because Arthur Davidson, William S. Harley, William A. Davidson and Walter Davidson, "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]


External links[edit]