Harley-Davidson Company dates back to 1903, and grew to be one of the leading producers of American motorcycles alongside competing brands like Indian and Excelsior. Motorcycles, like this 1920 Harley Model 20F, appeared on the automotive scene in Edmonton, likely after the arrival of Edmonton’s very first motorcar in 1904.
Side History of the Sidecar: When it came to that moment one had to decide between the singular travel of a motorcycle and the handiness of passenger space in the Model T, the sidecar was there to fill the gap! Both Edmonton and Calgary police forces owned a set of bikes equipped with passenger cars. They became especially prevalent during both World Wars, sometimes making their way home to Canada with their owners.
Delivery service providers were also known to take advantage of the sidecar’s utility. At one point, Harley-Davidson and Indian’s desires to reach out to a less enthusiastic market of Albertan farmers reinvented the bike as a stationary engine and rural delivery compartment. Records describe one Lac La Biche farmer (an ex-serviceman) repurposing an Indian 4 Model to haul milk cans to consumers. This specially ordered attachment surely increased the utility of any motorcycle. Could it get any better? A man from Calgary fashioned a car that’s floor folded out to be a tent platform. Another Calgary-born invention sought to amplify the space-saving quality that the motorcycle claimed by designing the pantograph – a sidecar that compacted to fit snuggly against the motorcycle.
Minority Motorists: Why has such a machine remained a trend on the fringes of motoring culture in Alberta? One in twelve Edmontonians owned a vehicle during the 1920s, of which motorcycle enthusiast made up the minority, similar to today. Leisure use, long-distance road trips and racing were prevalent motivations for choosing a bike over the all-season motorcars like Ford’s Model T. Before the cost of full-sized vehicles became more accessible, motorcycles were relatively inexpensive and incredibly practical on the rough, unpaved roads found just outside of early prairie towns and settlements. Still, most Harley-Davidson clientele in Alberta were from urban centres and earned enough money to purchase a vehicle that would be limited to warm-weather use.
Motorcycle fans became an eccentric group, even more so when their brand of choice was imported from abroad. Local clubs were formed, often based on the brand and type, and races were organized as early as 1912, here in Alberta. As for the rest of twentieth-century society, the early “biker” minority, a total of 30 in Edmonton in 1913, was razzed for being no more than foolhardy adventure-seekers. Perhaps the cautious and practical automobile owner was simply beating his gums
To see more pictures, and a glimpse of the infamous pig, visit the website www.harley-davidson.com