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VISIT Milwaukee Visitor Information Center

Toll Free: 1-800-554-1448
Local Phone Number: 414-273-7222

Email: info@milwaukee.org

Located inside the Wisconsin Center
Inside main rotunda on First Floor
400 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53203

 

Bill Davidson's Favorite Things

Motorcycle

Bill Davidson has been a living, breathing, riding ambassador for Harley-Davidson ever since he could crawl. “I bleed black and orange,” says Bill. So, it makes sense that he serves as the VP, brand ambassador, evangelist, and chief cheerleader for the world’s only Harley-Davidson Museum, which recently celebrated its 10th birthday.

We spoke to the man whose family name appears on your favorite motorcycles to get his thoughts on a few of the highlights you’ll encounter as you view the planet’s most expansive collection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and memorabilia, found at the crossroads of 6th and Canal in Milwaukee, WI, U.S.A.
Motorcycle

I’m often asked what I love most about the collection, and I often tell people that it depends on the day. There are so many iconic motorcycles found throughout the Museum and within the Motorcycle Archives. But it’s the stories and the people that are found within those hundreds of thousands of artifacts that really draw me in. I really wish those motorcycles could talk.

Our four founders had incredible insight and forethought to keep shining examples of the ingenuity and engineering that can be found throughout our uninterrupted run of 115 years of fulfilling dreams of personal freedom. It’s a collection that rivals anything you’ll find in any other corporate archives. The Museum not only tells the story of Harley-Davidson, it’s where our history, heritage, and passion come to life. The freedom, pride, and camaraderie of Harley-Davidson riders are always on display here. I truly love every inch of our 20-acre campus. We have something that really is incredible on 6th & Canal: 115 years of history of a brand that has changed people’s lives in so many remarkable ways. And my team and I invite everyone to experience it – riders and non-riders alike! 

Serial No. 1, c. 1903

It’s the oldest known Harley-Davidson in existence, how could I not include this in my list? It’s a revered icon (as the glass case lets you know), and I’ve seen people with tears streaming down their face when they first encounter this magnificent motorcycle. Of course, I love the bike for what it represents – the determination, passion, and drive necessary to create a new form of two-wheel transportation. But I also love to imagine what it was like to work in that 10-by-15-foot shed when the company was first beginning in 1903. Even in their wildest dreams, I’m sure none of the four founders could have imagined that we’d be admiring their work 115 years later. Who knows what the world would be like without this pairing of Harley and Davidson? Probably a lot more boring.

1923 Banjo-case 8-valve

I believe motorcycle racing fulfills that adventurous spirit that can be traced back to the earliest humans. We all have that trait in our DNA, even if it’s only found deep inside of us. Maybe that’s why you’ll often find me at the track. And maybe that’s why I spend so much time admiring this amazing feat of Harley-Davidson engineering. Antique racing motorcycles like these were beautifully simple creations. Once you strip away all but the necessary components, what remains is the engine serving as the centerpiece, a crown jewel on a machine built with one goal in mind: leave all others in the dust.

1936 EL

Also known as the “Knucklehead,” the Model EL is a Harley-Davidson icon. The design employed many classic elements, including the low frame, valenced fenders, and teardrop gas tanks, many of which you still see on today’s Harley-Davidsons. The heart of the bike was the powerful 61 cubic-inch “Knucklehead” engine, a motor that spurred a love affair that continues to this day. A personal dream of mine was fulfilled in 2012 when I was able to acquire an original 1936 Knucklehead for my collection. 

Tsunami Motorcycle Display

This 2004 Harley-Davidson FXSTB Softail Night Train definitely isn’t the most pristine bike in the collection, but it resonates with so many people, I have to put this on my must-see list. After drifting for more than a year across the Pacific Ocean after a tsunami struck northern Japan in 2011, the motorcycle was recovered off the coast of British Columbia. Its owner, Ikuo Yokoyama, requested that the motorcycle would be preserved in its current condition and displayed as a memorial to those whose lives were lost or forever changed by the tsunami. The Museum is truly humbled to display Mr. Yokoyama’s motorcycle. It has an amazing story to tell, and we are honored to be able to share it.

1973 XL-1000 Sportster 

This one is personal. Well, of course, I feel a tie to all the motorcycles in our collection, but this Sportster was once owned by my uncle John A. Davidson, who served as the Motor Company President. It was also one of the last motorcycles to roll off the assembly line at our Juneau Avenue factory. The Juneau Avenue facility now houses our corporate headquarters, which is kitty-corner from where the original Shed stood, hallowed ground where the Davidsons and Bill Harley created the first Harley-Davidson. 

Tank Wall

This display was actually created for the Motor Company’s 100th Anniversary and shines the spotlight on 100 tanks from our history. I think it shows off our core competencies of utilizing unique color schemes and amazing graphics to create stunning visuals. While all the tanks share a common shape, it’s a stunning visual that reflects the times in which they were created and illustrates how personal a Harley-Davidson can be. It’s also a popular spot for selfies, with the H-D logos providing a pristine backdrop that lets everyone know you’re in HOG Heaven. 

Engine Wall

This portion of the Museum has always been a favorite of mine, but since we recently made some renovations to the Engine Wall, I’ve fallen head over boots for the Engine Wall all over again. Designed for performance and styled for appearance, engines are the heart of Harley-Davidson’s identity. It is, after all, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. The new Engine Wall artfully displays 24 examples from the major engine families that Harley-Davidson has engineered over its uninterrupted 115-year history. And our new interactive displays invite visitors to take a deep dive into the motor’s workings and supplies the H-D enthusiast with tidbits and trivia related to the Motor Company’s legendary story.

Experience Gallery

What draws me into this gallery are the ear-to-ear smiles that I see on everyone who throws a leg over one of these display bikes. Whether it’s a classic motorcycle from the back in the day or a brand-new bike that just rolled off the factory floor, nobody can resist the chance to see what life behind handlebars looks like.

MOTOR® Bar & Restaurant

Located just across the way from the Museum entrance, MOTOR is another terrific way to immerse yourself in motorcycle culture. MOTOR takes you on a culinary road trip of great American food, and I can’t get enough of the menu. I’m always excited to see what the monthly specials are, and I am still finding new favorites every time out. Whether it’s the Friday fish fry, Saturday Blues & BBQ or Willie G’s Mini Burgers, you won’t be disappointed with what our kitchen is cooking. 

You! 

This isn’t necessarily a part of the collection, but I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to open our doors to visitors, riders, and enthusiasts from all walks of life. A walk through the Harley-Davidson Museum is a walk through the history of America. No matter what you ride, or even if you haven’t started riding yet, we invite everyone to visit the Museum and share your story. I love hearing how a particular bike or a specific ride has been a life changer for our customers. I promise, a visit to the H-D Museum is a similar experience. And it’s one that will stay with you for a lifetime.