Hershey, PA | The AACA Museum, Inc. — America’s Transportation Experience — launched an initiative to upgrade its popular lower-level motorbike gallery. The complete renovation is designed to permanently showcase additional motorbikes, motorcycle memorabilia, and related objects by transforming the exhibition space into a faux vintage motorcycle shop.
The exhibition space is aptly named Stillwater Motorcycle Works by its generous contributors, the Family of Ralph and Madeline Swenson of York, PA. “This is the most significant step we’ve taken to delineate this area as the permanent home for our continuous motorbike-related exhibits,” said Rob Kain, Director of Museum Advancement and co-curator for motorbike activity. “We are so grateful for the incredible kindness and support from the Swenson family,” added Dave Russell, who co-curates the space with Kain.
Background and History
Ralph G. Swenson was President of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, York Division. He began his professional career working as a four-year machinist and tool-and-die apprentice. Later, he became a tool and-die shop foreman, while attending Brooklyn Polytechnic University to study engineering in the evenings. A veteran of the U.S. Merchant Marines, Mr. Swenson became a Chief Methods Planner for the Brooklyn facility of American Machine and Foundry (AMF) in 1947. While there, he held a variety of positions, including Operations Manager. In 1969 he transferred to AMF’s York Division, serving as Deputy Director of Operations. Mr. Swenson was named Divisional Vice President and General Manager of the York Division in 1972, a position he held when Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Final Assembly Operations moved to York in 1974. In 1975 he was named Division President. In 1981, he was one of 13 investors who purchased Harley-Davidson from AMF, serving as President in York until his retirement in 1986 and continuing beyond by serving with company as a Consultant.
Along with other company executives, Ralph and his wife Madeline rode new motorcycles to several locations to promote Harley-Davidson after purchasing the company. The subsequent design changes, new manufacturing techniques, and the introduction of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles to the NY Stock Exchange marked the beginning of the modern age of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.
Mr. Swenson was an avid golfer and enjoyed motorcycling and boating. Madeline and family have preserved his motorcycles and memorabilia for future generations to enjoy. The motorcycle gallery currently showcases two Harley-Davidson TourGlide motorcycles, each with a sidecar. Both were built for, owned by, and ridden by Ralph and Madeline Swenson. The AACA Museum Inc. is pleased to have the opportunity to showcase unique historical items from this former company owner, president, and motorcycling VIP.
The opening of Stillwater Motorcycle Works is planned for June 11th, 2022. The date coincides with the annual Motorbike Day at the Museum event.