A Strange Day in Harley Davidson History
Harley Davidson motorcycles have long since made an indelible impression
on popular culture. There is a unique sense of freedom that these bikes
provide and that is why so many people have a love and fondness for
"biker culture". Unfortunately, many people have a negative opinion on
bikers and this negative opinion can be traced back to one single event
in 1947. Or, more accurately, the negative opinion can be traced back to
the over the top, inaccurate reporting of the event.
So, let's turn back the clock and examine what happened in 1947 that
altered the public's perception forever towards people who love Harley
The Hollister Riot
The event has become known as the Hollister Riot and it occurred on July,
4th 1947 in Hollister, CA. The event was a motorcycle rally that featured
4,000 members of the American Motorcycle Association. Motorcycle rallies
had become increasingly popular in the post World War Two era as more and
more men were taking up the hobby of group motorcycle riding. In this
instance, the crowd organized to celebrate the American holiday. But why
did motorcycle clubs become so popular?
The popularity of Harley Davidson
There were a number of reasons why motorcycle riding became popular.
Obviously, they are fun to ride and offer a different experience than
riding in a car. Most importantly, Harley Davidson produced excellent
motorcycles that handled well on the road. This aided in promoting their
appeal in the marketplace. Also, Harley Davidson motorcycles had
developed a unique, adventurous image over the prior decades. During
World War I, many Harley Davidson motorcycles were shipped overseas for
use in combat situations. This forgotten piece of history aided in adding
to the adventurous image these cycles achieved. All of these factors
contributed to the growing popularity of the cycles and more and more
people began to purchase them.
The Harley Davidson myth
This led to a weird myth that circulated in the late 1940's about Harley
Davidson motorcycles and the men who enjoyed riding the cycles. This myth
was the notion that the majority of the people forming motorcycle clubs
were lonely, disaffected men who rode the highways looking for their
niche in the world. While it is possible that a certain percentage of
riders embodied such an antisocial image, the vast majority were simply
having fun. However, stereotypes persisted and the Hollister Riots
established the very negative (albeit) inaccurate opinion of such riders.
Really, there were no riots that occurred during the event. The main
problem was lack of planning. The 4,000 people who showed up for the
rally were far more than what was initially expected. This led to
disorganization and overcrowding which, in turn, led to a little
rowdiness, drunken behavior and a lot of reckless motorcycle racing.
Unfortunately, the news media reported tales of biker's trashing the
town, causing riots and committing acts of violence. Such exaggerations
were incredibly inaccurate but the damage from the reporting was done. It
led to a stereotype of Harley Davidson motorcycle owners which permeates
to a certain degree to this very day. So, for better or worse, the
Hollister Riots were a major defining moment in Harley Davidson history.
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