Put a Harley in Your Stable
When Harley-Davidson first came on the scene in 1903 they faced a lot of competition in the transportation sector. There were the obvious competitors, like Indian who would be Harley’s main rival for many years to come, but there were also bicycle companies and soon there would be the automobile companies. Besides all these mechanized means of conveyance, Harley found itself competing with one of the oldest forms of transportation, the horse.
Before 1900, the majority of the US population lived in a rural setting and it wasn’t until 1910 that the urban population finally equaled it. Agriculture was the main industry and employed over 30% of the workforce. Harley realized the potential for expanding sales into the rural market, but they would first have to prove that their motorcycles were just as practical as a horse.
In order to try and sway more farmers to purchase a new motorcycle, Harley-Davidson commissioned a number of photographs to be taken, depicting their motorcycles being used in a farm setting. You’ll note that “Harley-Davidson” is painted on the gas tanks using a larger font, which was normal practice when taking marketing photos back in the early days of the Motor Company.
No data exists which documents the exact number of farmers who switched to motorcycles during this period, but the photo record clearly shows that motorcycles became an important tool and probably resulted in putting a good many horses out to pasture.