History, Mythology, and Perceptions of America’s Motorcycle

May 18 – October 20, 2019

Join us during the summer of 2019 for a remarkable journey on America’s Motorcycle!

The story of Harley-Davidson serves as a parallel narrative of 20th century American culture and history.  The company originated in the industrial age, was the eventual victor in a hard-fought business and racing struggle with rival Indian, and experienced low points as well as triumphs.  The machines themselves developed in response to America’s cheap fuel and vast distances.  Now, around the world, Harley-Davidson enjoys cult-like status.  The brand has for decades evoked strong emotion among both motorcyclists and observers.

Riding a Harley-Davidson is a complex and provocative experience – far more than the look and rumble of the V-twin engine.  Harley-Davidson is an innovator, a touchstone of American pride and independence, a fascinating marketing mechanism, an undeniably excellent motorcycle, and a national cultural institution.

1912 Harley-Davidson photo by John Sterling Ruth
1912 Harley-Davidson photo credit: John Sterling Ruth

We will examine Harley-Davidson through seven key themes:

    • Harley As An American innovation
    • Harley versus Indian
    • The ‘American Motorcycle’—why Harley?
    • The Situation is in Doubt: Decline and AMF years
    • Rebirth:  The 1981 buy-back, a painful housecleaning and the success years
    • “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation:” Harley, Outlaws, American society, and other motorcyclists
    • The future is in gear

We illustrate Harley’s story by having a view of thirty-four important and beautiful examples of the brand.

A special thank you to our guest curators for this exhibit:  Rob Kain and Dave Russell.

Harley-Davidson Exhibit AACA Museum
Harley-Davidson Exhibit 2019 AACA Museum

Updated Exhibit List (4/29/19):

Note:  Specific motorcycles on exhibit are subject to change.

1912 Single
1918 Model J with sidecar
1928 Peashooter (racer)
1930 DL (olive green, twin headlamps)
1937 UL (flathead, customer bike)
1945 Police FL (CA Highway Patrol)
1947 Model FL (Knuckle Head)
1950 custom chopper w/ Pan Head engine
1951 Hydra Glide (Pan Head)
1954 Model K
1957 Servi-car (black & white)
1957 Sportster (blue)
1958 FLH (maroon, solo seat)
1960 MS-50 Sport
1960 Topper
1964 Pacer 1954 Hummer flat-tracker
1965 Electra Glide (Pan Head)

1966 FL (red/white; 1st shovelhead)
1969 XLCH Sportster (restored, orange)
1969 350SS Sprint
1969 ML-125 Rapido (cobalt blue, w/turn signals)
1972 FLH Electra Glide (Vetter fairing, if desired)
1974 Baja 100
1975 SX250 Harley/Aeromacchi (restored, burgundy)
1975 XLCH Sportster (restored, blue)
1975 SX250 (orange)
1977 XLCR
1978 MX250 Motocross
1981 Sportster (AMF; black/orange)
1980 XR750
1980 Tour Glide, bagger w/sidecar, black
1984 XR1000
“Lucky Devil” sideshow bike