Discovery Channel’s new miniseries, Harley & the Davidsons, will premiere on September 5. The drama will be a six-hour exploration about the birth of iconic motorcycle brand Harley Davidson. The six hours will play out over three nights into two-hour blocks. Arthur Davidson and William Harley founded the company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1903.
The movie charts the dynamic rise of the company, as the brothers and their friend risk their fortunes in order to start the iconic brand. Racing at the time was incredibly dangerous. The one-cylinder, gas combustion engines that powered the original Harley Davidsons were designed with racing in mind. The movie features exciting racing sequences, and the actors were able to ride replicas of bikes that no longer exist or that only live on in museums.
The Harley company started in the Davidson family’s barn. Many of the major parts, however, were manufactured in other places. Historians believe that eldest brother William Davison made many parts in the West Milwaukee rail shops where he worked as a tool room foreman. The original prototype, which took the machine out of the realm of motorized bicycles and into a new category of vehicle, was functional by 1904. It was on September 8 of that year when it competed in a local motorcycle race held at State Fair Park. Edward Hildebrand rode the bike to a fourth place finish. This is the earliest documented appearance of an H-D motorcycle.
In 1905, the team made 11 motorcycles. Just three years later they expanded to 154 and suddenly Harley Davidson was a company that was on a quick rise. There were many other small motorcycle companies at the time, but Harley managed to distinguish itself. The U.S. Government purchased many bikes during World War I. In 1907, William Harley had graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he obtained a mechanical engineering degree, which further increased the company’s capability. The company moved into a new brick facility and started selling motorcycles to law enforcement.
By the early 1930s, Harley Davidson’s only rival was Indian. The company became even more popular between the world wars, producing many bikes for consumers and government. By the time World War II came along, the production soared to around 90,000 units.
The miniseries stars Robert Aramayo (Young Ned on Game of Thrones) as Bill Harley. Fellow Game of Thrones actor Michiel Huisman (Daario Naharis) portrays Walter Davidson. Bug Hall plays Arthur Davidson. The cast also includes Daniel Coonan (EastEnders), Annie Read (The Haunted Life) and Essa O’Shea. Coonan plays “Big Bill” Davidson, the brother of Walter and Arthur Davidson. Read plays Caroline Jacthuber, the woman who Bill Harley eventually marries. Gabriel Luna (Matador) plays a rider known as “the Texas Cyclone” (Eddie Hasha). Ale Shaffer (We Are Your Friends) plays a top dirt track racer nicknamed Shrimp Burns. Sean Scully rounds out the cast as Walt Jr.