kids encyclopedia robot

Hells Angels facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Hells Angels MC
Hells Angels logo.jpg
Abbreviation HA, 81, HAMC
Founded March 17, 1948; 75 years ago (1948-03-17)
Founder Otto Friedli
Founded at Fontana, California,
United States
Type Outlaw motorcycle club
Headquarters Oakland, California,
United States
Worldwide (467 chapters in 59 countries)
Key people
Sonny Barger (deceased)

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) is a worldwide outlaw motorcycle club whose members typically ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. In the United States and Canada, the Hells Angels are incorporated as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation. Common nicknames for the club are the "H.A.", "Red & White", "HAMC", and "81". With a membership between 3,000 and 3,600 and 467 chapters in 59 countries, the HAMC is one of the largest motorcycle clubs in the world.


The Hells Angels originated on March 17, 1948, in Fontana, California, when several small motorcycle clubs agreed to merge. Otto Friedli, a World War II veteran, is credited with starting the club.

According to its website, the club's name was first suggested by Arvid Olsen, an associate of the founders who had served in the "Hell's Angels" squadron of the Flying Tigers in China during World War II.

Boeing B-17F-25-BO Fortress 42-24577 Hells Angels
This B-17F, tail number 41–24577, was named Hell's Angels after the 1930 Howard Hughes movie about World War I fighter pilots.

Some of the HAMC's early history is not clear, and accounts differ. The club's first official charter was reportedly drawn up in Fontana in 1950.

The Hells Angels are often depicted in semi-mythical romantic fashion like the 19th-century James–Younger Gang: free-spirited, iconic, bound by brotherhood and loyalty.

The club became prominent within, and established its notoriety as part of, the 1960s counterculture movement in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury District, playing a part at many of the movement's seminal events.


Insignia of the Hells Angels from Karlsruhe charter, with the '1%' patch on the gates

The Hells Angels' official website attributes the official "death's head" insignia design to Frank Sadilek, past president of the San Francisco charter. The colors and shape of the early-style jacket emblem (before 1953) were copied from the insignias of the 85th Fighter Squadron and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron.

The Hells Angels have a system of patches similar to military medals. The specific meaning of each patch is not publicly known, but the patches identify each biker's specific or significant actions or beliefs. The official colors of the Hells Angels are red lettering displayed on a white background—hence the club's nickname "The Red and White". The patches are worn on leather or denim jackets and vests.

Red and white are also used to display the number 81 on many patches, as in "Support 81", "Route 81". The 8 and 1 stand for the respective positions in the alphabet of H and A.

Hells Angels-03
New York Hells Angels patch

"Angels Forever, Forever Angels" is also the club's traditional motto.


Hells Angels-05
A club member at a biker gathering in Australia, 2008

To become a Hells Angels "prospect", candidates must have a valid driver's license, a motorcycle over 750cc, and the right combination of personal qualities.

To become a full member, a "prospect" must be unanimously confirmed by the rest of the full club members. The step of attaining full membership can be called "being patched".

Even after a member is patched in, the patches remain the property of HAMC, not the member. On leaving the Hells Angels or being ejected, a member must return his patches to the club. Members are required to attend mandatory club meetings and motorcycle runs and must pay dues. The money is used by the club to finance motorcycle runs and funerals, and to fund the travel of club officers to state and national meetings. Hells Angels may become exempt from paying dues after a certain period of time as a member of the club.


Hells Angels-02-MJ
Hells Angels clubhouse in Oakland, California

Each Hells Angels chapter is governed by an officer corps, consisting of a president, vice president, secretary/treasurer, sergeant-at-arms and road captain. Each chapter has autonomy regarding member discipline and minor policy changes. The Hells Angels became the first notarized and organized outlaw motorcycle club, and the biker clubs formed subsequently have reportedly imitated the Angels' insignias, rules, doctrines and rituals.

Although the Hells Angels have no official "mother chapter", the club's de facto national headquarters remained in its founding location of San Bernardino, California until 1958. The club's unofficial headquarters was then relocated to Oakland, California. The Oakland chapter has traditionally been able to maintain a preeminent position as "first among equals" because it has the largest membership of any charter the United States. The Oakland chapter is responsible for making major decision within the club and granting new charters. Any motorcycle club seeking to join to the Hells Angels must apply to the Oakland chapter for membership, and the applicant club must be monitored and approved of by the Oakland Hells Angels before being granted membership.

In New York state, the HAMC is incorporated as the Church of Angels, a nonprofit religious organization.

Worldwide charters

Hells Angels clubhouse East Village
The former Hells Angels clubhouse at 77 East 3rd Street in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City

The HAMC acknowledges more than 100 chapters in over 29 countries. New Zealand had the first charter of the Hells Angels outside the United State.

A list of acknowledged charters can be found on the HAMC's official website.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Hells Angels para niños

kids search engine
Hells Angels Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.