1913 Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Advertisement

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, May 16, 1913:  Doing nothing of any account.

1913 Harely Davidson Adversitement

Why The Motorcycle Keeps Boys on the Farm

Don’t expect your boy to be happy on the farm if the summer season brings only work. When the day’s works is over don’t tell him, the horses are too tired for road work, because it is this tying to the farm, this inability to join his chums in their pastimes or to seek his own pleasures that often makes farm life distasteful to him.  Get him a

HARLEY-DAVIDSON

It will let down the bars and take him where he wishes in a fraction of the time he would use by team. It will open up a thousand and one pleasures heretofore denied him. You will find he will return at bed time, happy, contented and satisfied with his lot in life. But when you buy him a motorcycle, be sure that you obtain one that is economical, reliable and durable. Buy him a Harley-Davidson, because

It is the Most Economical

The Harley-Davidson holds the world’s official record for economy.

It is the Most Reliable

The Harley-Davidson is the only machine which has ever been awarded a diamond medal and a thousand plus five score in an endurance contest. The plus five was for its super-excellent performance. These awards were made by the National Federation of American Motorcycles.

It is the Most Durable

The first Harley-Davidson made, over eleven years ago, has covered now over one hundred thousand miles and is still giving satisfaction and today retains even its original bearings.

Seven departments of the U.S. Government use a total of nearly 4000 of these machines.

Over 3000 R.F. D. Carriers daily cover their routes on a Harley-Davidson, a fitting tribute to the reliability of this machine.

Call on our nearest dealer for demonstration or write for catalog.

Harley-Davidson Motor Company

PRODUCERS OF HIGH GRADE MOTORCYCLES FOR OVER ELEVEN YEARS

776 A Street   MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma wrote little, but probably was working very hard.—doing housecleaning, cooking, farm chores, etc.

The sons of farmers also worked hard—and this June 15, 1913 advertisement in Kimball’s Dairy Farmer magazine played on the fear that they might leave the farm for the city.

You also might enjoy these previous posts that contained other ads that played on similar fears.

Old Billard Table Advertisement

1913 Victor-Victrola Advertisement

33 Responses

  1. Isn’t that funny, reading about Harley’s being around for a whole eleven years! I wonder if they ever imagined how popular they would still be, 100 years on.

  2. Very interesting. A toy for your boy!

  3. I was going to write the same comment Joanne did! Eleven whole years! I saved the picture of that ad to show to my husband and some of his friends. They’ll find it interesting. Thanks for sharing!
    (And I’m sure Grandma was still busy with housecleaning when she wrote this entry!)

  4. What a marketing ploy too! Targeting farmers. Interesting.

    • The targeting seems to obvious by today’s standards, but apparently ads were less subtle back then .

    • Exactly what Laura said. This makes a lot of sense for NH too. We have long had the problem of younger residents leaving the farm, or the state entirely, so the HD marketing would be a good argument here. We’ve had a bike rally in Laconia for about 90 years, and it keeps expanding. When I lived up north in the Lakes Region (Bike Week is all around Lake Winnepesaukee–largest lake in New England) there was one year when I was living just a block away from a major crossroads in Meredith, which is right on the water and very close to Laconia. All during bike week, no matter how late or early in the night or day, I could hear (yes, “hear!”) when the lights were changing at the intersection by the distinctive sound of the Harley engines. I was working 4 jobs that summer, and bike week was a miserable exercise in patience to get from my home to work or job-to-job. I LOVE the Lakes Region, but vowed I will never live there again until I can actually just kick back and enjoy Bike Week instead of cursing it because I have to be somewhere and half a million biker tourists are clogging the roads for the better part of (these days) TWO WEEKS.
      But I still love the freedom all those bikes represent…just don’t think the parents of those farm boys in 1913 could have imagined the culture (and sometimes crude “show us your…” attitude) it would spawn!
      Kind of like the internet :).

      • I enjoyed reading the history of this event–and how your feelings towards it have evolved over the years. It’s amazing how many years this rally has continued–and how it has grown.

  5. Again an ad with lots of words – so different from today! But they’re selling more than the Harley, they’re selling a guarantee that the man won’t leave and a freedom for the man that exceeds anything that can be accomplished with a whole team of horses! I love it!

  6. From my research for farmers, in Kansas at least, the ones that could afford to buy the motorcycles owned the land and the ones that did the actual farming didn’t make enough to buy anything extra. My great-grandparents bought 3 cycles about 1925 for their 3 sons and when I was interviewing individuals about my aunt’s murder some 85 years later, they still talked about those bikes. They told stories of how their parents complained of the noise and how the bikes tore up the streets, scared the horses and on and on.

  7. I didn’t know Harley Davidsons had been around that long.

  8. YEAH! Caught up, finally! Now let’s see if I KEEP up.

  9. Oh wow, those would be worth a pretty penny now. I was watching American Pickers and they were always finding old motorbikes and parts out on farms in piles.

  10. […] Advertisers often picked up on that fear to market a product. A previous post contained an ad for Harley Davison Motorcycles that also promised to keep the kids on the […]

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