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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
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Died December 30, 1950(1950-12-30) (aged 69)
Wisconsin Highway 59 near Waukesha, Wisconsin, United States
Cause of death Car accident
Resting place Forest Home Cemetery
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
Children Margaret Davidson (daughter)
Arthur Davidson Jr. (elder son)
James Davidson (younger son)
Parent(s) William C. Davidson (father)
Margaret Adams McFarlane (mother)
Relatives William A. Davidson (eldest brother)
Walter Davidson Sr. (older brother)

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

Early life

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. Arthur's grandfather Alexander "Sandy" Davidson (from Aberlemno, Scotland) and Margaret Scott 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. 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. This act was rewarded with returning troops ready, trained and willing to buy Harley-Davidson branded motorcycles.

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. 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. From then on, the uncle was known as the "Honey Uncle" for helping the business get off the ground. 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.

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.

Davidson 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. Davidson was survived by his three children: Margaret, Arthur Jr. and James Davidson.

Labor Hall of Fame

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.


Arthur Davidson Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.