In 1901, William Harley, a young man living in Milwaukee, came up with the concept of meshing a small engine with a bicycle frame. After considerable trial and error, Harley, working with his friends Arthur and Walter Davidson, developed a prototype of what would later evolve into the modern motorcycle.
In 1906, Harley and the Davidsons opened the Wisconsin factory that, to this day, serves as Harley-Davidson's corporate headquarters today.While touting its U.S. workforce, the company has battled the import market for decades. In 1952, it unsuccessfully lobbied for a 40% tax on imported motorcycles, but in the 1980s the company's complaints over Japanese imports led President Ronald Reagan to impose a five-year tariff plan. That 1983 plan raised the tariff of 4.4% all the way to 49.4% on Japanese imports with engines larger than 700 CCs, gradually decreasing, year-by-year, back down to 4.4%. In 1987, declaring itself profitable and competitive once again, Harley-Davidson made the surprising move of advocating that the tariff schedule be stopped a year early. A frequent debate among motorcycle enthusiasts has long been whether Harley-Davidson deserves the "made in the U.S.A." distinction, as various parts are imported from Japan, Germany, Italy and even Australia. Also made in the U.S. since 1998 are Victory Motorcycles, based in Spirit Lake, Iowa. It is owned by Polaris, a Minnesota company best known as a manufacturer of snowmobiles. Polaris also owns the U.S.-made Indian Motorcycle brand.