Recently, Jean Davidson, granddaughter of Walter Davidson, one of the four founders and the first
president of Harley-Davidson, was in town promoting her book Growing up Harley-Davidson: Memoirs of a
Motorcycle Dynasty. Rumble took advantage of the opportunity sitting down with Jean to find out the
origins of the book and what's in store for the future.
In Growing up Harley-Davidson, Jean Davidson describes how the dreams and hard work of a few young
men expanded to become the cultural icon it is today. The book follows the modest beginnings of
Harley-Davidson from a basement, to a ten by ten shed to a major motorcycle manufacturer. She
explains why the name is Harley-Davidson and not Davidson-Harley despite the fact that three of
the four founders were Davidsons. Davidson also relates several of her early and most memorable
Often asked about her childhood and what it was like growing up a part of one of the most influential
families in the motorcycle industry, Davidson decided to answer the questions in a book. The project
was expected to last only one year, but ended up stretching out to five. According to Davidson, the
difficulty is trying to find people who were alive at the time and verifying authenticity of the
stories. She interviewed a number of family members in order to get the stories right, and became a
perfectionist when it came to recording the stories of the people no longer with us.
Davidson believes everyone should write down their stories for their children before the details get
lost over the years. She feels everyone should write a book because the process allows you to get to
As a child Davidson felt deprived always wanting a horse. Otherwise, she was made to feel like
nothing more than the girl next door. Though surrounded with the motorcycle industry, Davidson
claims, "When you are in it you don't think anything of it. It is just a way of life." Davidson
grew up with a tremendous amount of freedom.
For most of her life, Davidson would avoid using her last name. In the past, young men knowing her
family would ask if her father could get them a motorcycle. As times changed, the question became
whether or not her family could get them a job. Davidson has come up with the standard reply, "I'm
not with the company," to cast aside probing questions such as, "What will Harley-Davidson do for
their 100th anniversary?" and "What's behind the design of the V-ROD?" Though she feels blessed by
the name, Davidson states it took her 65 years to grow into it.
Currently teaching for a technical college, Davidson emphasizes the honor of a profession working
with your hands. She deeply believes through hard work and following your dreams you can achieve
success. Furthermore, Davidson states it is important to, "develop your gift and then give it back
[to the community]." She has always been trying to save animals and is now working on programs to
save injured, abandoned and endangered species all over the world.
Growing up Harley-Davidson can be found in Harley-Davidson Dealers around the United States and in
Europe. Urged to include more pictures, Davidson has released a companion to Growing up
Harley-Davidson titled, Jean Davidson's Harley-Davidson Family Album. She will be in Arizona
April 7-9 to promote her new book during Bike Week. For more information about Jean Davidson or
her books, visit http://www.jeandavidson.com.
Ride safe, ride often...hell, just ride! - dpc