H-D Motorcycle History
Harley-Davidson Serial Number One, which currently resides in the H-D lobby at Juneau Avenue, dates to the 1903-04 era. Company founders built at least one prototype before it and, of course, production machines after it that differed both in the power of the engine and in general configuration.
Meticulous research by H-D Archives staff and external experts proved that Harley-Davidson Serial Number One was built without fenders and used in competition, probably to illustrate the power and reliability of the motor. After all, as the company name implied, Harley-Davidson Motor Company sold motors as well as motorcycles.
While it is clearly identified on many of its components as Serial Number One, it is definitely not the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle. That distinction would go to one of the prototypes. Instead, it is the developmental platform from which the first true Harley-Davidson street motorcycles sprang. It is the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle to be considered ready for production and, except for refinements that civilized it as a street machine, is essentially the same as those models that followed it.
Harley-Davidson Serial Number One, then, is not the very first Harley-Davidson but it is the first true Harley-Davidson motorcycle as they were later developed. And, beyond any doubt, it is the oldest Harley-Davidson motorcycle in existence today.
Photographs courtesy of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company Archives